Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

I'm thankful. Thankful for you.  Looking back over the years,  I realize that I am rich. Even while my roof is leaky, and we can't always afford to have the best of the best and all that good stuff,  I am rich. 

I look back at each of you who have impacted my life, encouraged me,  let me ride in your draft, hugs hand shakes,  high fives.   You bought me a beer, a sandwich, a cup of coffee.  You rode bikes with me, laughed with me, made fun of me. We hiked, we ran, we worked.  We had some serious discussions, and some silly ones.

I sit here trying craft the words to describe how I feel but simply cannot portray the depth.

Just know, that your friendship has added to my wealth, a wealth that goes infinitesimally beyond what we can grasp,  and for that I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chasing Leaves

I got home after dark last night.  The kid was at basketball practice so I downed some Gatorade, pulled on tights, long sleeve shirt and wind jacket to head out the door.  It was dark, around 6:30pm.  The sun had dropped under the horizon leaving a black and stormy sky in it's wake.  The temps were around 35 an dropping.  I was hoping for the snowstorm that never came. 

Up the road and into the woods, I ran.  One footstep at a time.   Confronting my fear one stride at a time.  I wore a small headlamp and carried a larger commuter light in my hand.  I alternated with turning the brighter light off and running with only headlamp. 

I took stock of how I felt.  Tired after a long weekend and a little on the hungry side.  I found it more difficult to assuage my fears.  Like shadows, they creep into my mind and attempt to cover the light,  to haunt my thoughts. 

I think about turning around.  Frankly, I'd rather be sitting on the couch,  nice and warm.  But I carry on, knowing that if I quit, I take a step backwards.  I force myself to think about the good things.  The cold wind, the night sky,  the leaves blowing..... that sounds like a footstep in the woods, why would someone be out here in the woods?....   and so on,  back and forth, the battle of good vs bad,  played out over and over in my head.

There is progress though.  Last year at this time,  I would have made the choice to stay at home.  To give up before I even started.  Definite progress and I look forward to re-framing my thoughts, getting out there and doing what I love,  challenging myself!

Monday, November 25, 2013


Lot's going on right now, just not much to write home about, so to speak.  Getting ready to get our roof redone, lose the shingles and replace with metal roofing to match the newer part of the house.  Only 600 sq feet to roof, but things keep popping up; weather, helping a friend with his roof, etc.    

Running is going well.  After last weekend's big hike, I cannot stop thinking about the Art Loeb Trail.  30.1 miles through Psigah up and over the Blue Ridge Mountains from Brevard NC, to Daneil Boone Boy Scout Camp.  I feel confident that I can do it in one push,  ie less than 24 hours.  Now I just have to figure out timing. Winter or summer?   Definitely not until the roof is finished.  

I have been on a couple more night runs and find myself looking forward to the next one.  That gets me excited.  It is a different, beautiful world out there after dark and I don't want to be held back from enjoying it.  It's my life and I want to be the one who is in control of it.  

That about sums it up right now.  I'm looking forward to more adventures soon!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I mixed it up a little bit and started the Run Club For Boys at Oakley Elementary School. ( this was in addition to bike club at the same school).  We had 10 boys sign up for the first ever Run Club For Boys. 

Over 8 weeks, each week we worked on stretching, push ups/sit ups/ and pull ups,  a timed run, and fartleks,  typically ending with some sort of fun relay race, duck duck goose and then some play ground time.

Each week, the boys pushed themselves and each other to a personal best. 

Since we had different levels of runners and ages, I was careful to keep the competition between the boys out of the equation.  I wanted each one to challenge themselves and to encourage each other.

The final day of Run Club came around,  my goal for the participants was to run a 5 k distance:  15 laps around the track behind the school.  I was a little concerned about setting the bar too high, but when I told them the idea, everyone was game to give it a try. 

And so they set off.  I was excited to see that several parents and relatives came out to cheer the kids one. 

One by one, the kids ticked off the laps.  I put a mark by the names each time a kid ran by.  I was impressed to see that one boy who had struggled, finished in front of the group. 

I was equally impressed when all except one of the kids had finished.  The last kid had one lap to go.  He was still smiling though.  Through each session I had talked about good sportsmanship and encouraging each other.  I was excited when I looked up and 1/4 of the way through the first lap,  one of the kids was running along...then another and another,  until the whole group was running together for the last lap!!  They all crossed the finish together as a group.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Birthday Hike

 I like to do something big, and solo for my birthday.  My annual bike ride to Roanoke is not going to happen this year, and with my focus on running, I decided to try something I had never done before. 

My goal was to hike up to Shining Rock, but after looking at the map and remembering that it was only 3.6 miles one way, I decided to take the long way around.  The week before the weather was looking amazing, with a forecast low of 50 on Saturday night and a bright moon hanging in the sky.   I was really thinking about hiking in Saturday evening after the kid's soccer game.  It would be an interesting hike.   But then the weather got cloudy and chilly, then rainy so I decided to sleep in my warm bed.

After a quick stop at a gas station for snack foods and another stop at Breuggers for a bagel, I drove up to the Big East Fork Trailhead, parked and started hiking. I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve wool shirt.  It was chilly enough that I was shivering but I knew that I would warm up as soon as I got up the trail.   The Big East Fork Trail is not marked and sometimes hard to follow.  I ended up crossing the river once, thinking the trail had crossed, and then had to cross back when I spotted the trail back on the other side.  Wet feet and all, I wasn't worried.  I was almost wishing it were hot out, so many swimming holes along this river!  Gotta come back this summer.

I continued walking, looking at the map about every 30 minutes.  I wasn't sure how fast I was going or how far I had gone.  I could estimate, but had a nagging feeling that I had missed my turn on the Greasy Creek Trail.  I figured I would just keep hiking and if I had missed the turn, I would simply hike a bigger loop than planned. 

After a little less than 2 hrs, I found the trail across the river, a faint line heading up into the trees.  I followed the trail, the shrubs had been recently trimmed and I felt like I was making good time.  The skies still overcast,  the air getting cooler as I got higher, I could now hear the wind, higher up on the ridge ripping through the tree tops. 

 I fully expected to be exposed and get lambasted while on the Art Loeb Trail.  I briefly got off trail again, bushwhacked, looked at the map, crossed the creek and found the trail again.  I kept climbing,  hoping the clouds would break, knowing that the views up here were amazing.  I spotted an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but then the clouds closed in again. 
 On up to the ridge and the Art Loeb Trail,  the wind was whipping.  I pulled on my rain jacket and stayed warm enough.  There were only a couple of exposed parts, but most of the trail was protected by an assortment of trees.  Hearing the wind whining just inches above my head and barley feeling the effects of the wind, was pretty cool. 
 I was excited to make my goal.  This place is special to me for a lot of reasons.  I climbed to the top of the giant piece of slippery granite, and looked around, took a couple of pictures then climbed down, not wanting to get chilled.  A quick lunch of PB&J and Coke, and I headed down Shining Creek Trail.  The 3.6 mile trail went by quickly.  The mist turned in bigger rain drops as descended into the valley.  I made it to the truck right as it started to rain. 
 I climbed into the truck, tired, satisfied and wishing I had planned a bigger loop....  5 hrs and 20 minutes, roughly 11 miles.  Great way to celebrate the last day of being a 40 yr old!
 How long is the Art Loeb Trail?

Friday, November 15, 2013


I never dreamed that I would see a person walking through my child's school carrying an M-16 assault rifle.  That non dream became reality on Thursday, towards the end of lunch, while I sat in the rotunda at Oakley Elementary.  I knew at that point that the threat was real.

The cafeteria director had asked me last week, as I sat with the kid at lunch time, if I would be willing to come in and help get the Holiday Meal ready.  I showed up at 9am and started helping cut up over 60 pumpkin pies,  putting them in serving dishes and decorating them with a dollop of whipped cream.

The task took around and hour and I found myself with an hour of free time.  I headed home to conduct some business, make some phone calls and send some e-mails.   At 10:15 am I returned to the school to help sell meal tickets to adults and families who would be joining their kids for lunch.  I really enjoy meeting the assorted parents who come into the school , and enjoy chatting with parents who I have known since the kid was in Kindergarten.

Around noon, traffic died down and the kindergarten classes, the last classes to eat lunch were in the cafeteria, getting their meals.  I headed to the cafeteria to turn the money in.  I stopped to chat with some of the kids and shoot the breeze.  A lot of kid's parents can't make these special times due to work and I try to make an effort to visit with them and let them know they are special.

Suddenly we heard over the speaker system that the school was on lock down, and "this is not a drill".  I probably could have made a beeline for the front door and headed home, but instead, I helped usher the little kids into the back of the kitchen,  following protocol.  After about 1/2 an hour, the full lock down was reduced to a perimeter lock down.  Kids and staff were now free to go about what they were doing, as long as they stayed inside the school building.   The kindergarten classes resumed eating lunch.

I walked to the office to leave the tickets and put the desk that I had used back in it's place.  After about 10-15 minutes,  we heard the principle once again on the speaker system.  We were now to go back into full lock down.

At this point, I was in the rotunda, the entrance to the school and a couple of police officers were guarding the front door.   I then watched as a trio of officers walked through and headed upstairs, one carrying what appeared to be an M-16 assault rifle.  I knew then that this was more than a drill.

I headed into the office with the rest of the staff, and listened for tidbits of information over the radio.  Apparently,  a person in a vehicle, drove down the road next to the playground and communicated some sort of threat to a group of 4 boys.  One of the boys mentioned that there might be a gun involved.  Hence the lock down.  

Now,  as humans, we tend to hear things, but then relay them differently than we hear them,  or in a panic we convey things with different intentions that are expressed.  There was some confusion with the result being, for the safety of everyone,  that the interior of the school would need to be swept by officers and cleared for safety.

An hour and a half went by.  We didn't know anything.  The news crews started showing up.  We read the headlines on the internet,  nothing we didn't already know, but still not enough to really know what was going on.  We wouldn't find out the details until later.

Around 2pm, we finally got the all clear.  Parents had started congregating, some panicked, wanting to retrieve their kids.  I can understand.  I was on the inside, but still had no contact with my kid.  I felt secure knowing that he was with his class and teacher,  I knew that they would follow safety protocol.  In fact, I didn't get to see my kid until most of the walk up / car rider parents had picked up their kid.

I won't go into all of the nitty gritty details, but I was honored to be allowed to help get the kids to the parents waiting outside, and then assist with loading the rest of the kids on the buses.   While parents were anxious, I felt that the overall response was that of respect for the police force and school staff.  It took some time to get all of the parents and kids matched up, but considering the circumstances, everyone was very patient. 

The last bus rolled back into school just before 5pm.  I drove by later on my way to pick up some bikes and the campus was still,  peaceful. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Night Running

Running is going well.  6 weeks into my running bout, I'm feeling good.  1hr 10 minutes has been my longest run so far.  That's going to change this weekend, on my big birthday adventure.  As usual, I'll post details afterwards.

Last night I went on a solo night run. 

It was cold and windy when I went out the door right at sunset.  I'm determined to conquer my fear of being alone in the dark woods.  Or, if I can't conquer it, find some coping skills, a way to live with it, and not let it stop me from doing this sort of thing. 

I headed up the road and into the woods.  Little flakes of snow fell here and there as the wind whipped through the trees overhead.  I enjoy the feel of the forest as the sky grows darker after the setting sun.  I run softly, leaves crunching under foot. 

I smile.  I'm out here and I'm not sure what is going to happen.  As I run I search for the reason, the root of my fear.  I think about control for a while.  Am I afraid because I am out of control?  How does that differ from the daylight?  Does being able to see what just made that noise, the one that sounds like footsteps give me some false sense of control? 

I continue to run.  It is dark now and I turn on my headlamp.  I need a new headlamp.  I have an old Black Diamond $20 special.  I brought my 300 lumen Night Rider Mako 5 along just in case, but for now, I run in the dim light.

My thoughts turn to focus.  Maybe my focus is wrong.  Maybe if I stop focusing on what might be out there, lurking,  and shift my thoughts to what is really happening, my fear will lighten.  I try this method.  I force myself to stop looking into the darkness for the negative.  I focus on breathing in the cold air.  I feel a glimmer of relief,  a glimmer of hope, and start having fun.  I turn on my commuter light and pick up the pace.  Focusing on nothing, just like I do when I run in the day light. 

The chances of me dying out here are probably a lot less than if I were driving in traffic. 

Focus, leaves crunching, wind blowing, city lights in the distance.  All things that make me happy. 

After 30 minutes I turn around to head home.  I continue to focus.... on nothing.

Back out of the woods, onto the pavement and home. 

I'm glad to say that I was not freaked out and jumpy as I have been in the past.  I'm hoping that a good dose of night running will help me get past this block and I can get out and enjoy the woods again as I used to.

Don't let your fears hold you back!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Sometimes I get a little frantic.  Worried that I because of my own pursuits I won't be able to share enough experiences with the kid.  In my mind I start trying to figure out how to squeeze in all of the activities, camping trips, hiking, running, climbing, riding, paddling etc.  It becomes impossible pretty quickly. 

Last night, the kid and I went to the Iron Palm Bouldering gym in Asheville.  Newly opened, with a ton of routes.  I regret selling my La Sportiva Mythos several years ago, but they probably would have dry rotted by now. 

We had a blast,  the kid was non stop.  I would watch him climb, give him some pointers then try the route myself.  After down climbing, I turned to tell him to give it a go.  He would be gone.  I looked around the gym to see him on the other side, climbing something else.  Non stop for over an hour! 

Pretty exciting to see the kid fall in love with this sport! 

Can't wait to go again.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Living on Conflict

I realized recently, that some people can't go through life without conflict.  They find ways to pick mental fights, to stir up someone's emotions.   It is passive aggressive to the max.  People looking in from the outside often can't see what is happening, and it tends to look like the person being "beat up" is the one at fault.

I actually used to be the aggressor.  I used to look for faults in people so that I could put them down. (no wonder I didn't have many friends when I was a kid). 

It was a weird habit of raising oneself to a higher status, because either no one could live up to my  standards, or someone was always out to trick me,  or get the better of me. 

I was learned at a young age that everything that someone did, if it was contrary to my expectations, of not done how I wanted it done,  they were doing said action out of spite,  simply to show me up or to put me down. 

And I was very wrong.  At some point, I started to realize that people actually want to be my friend for no other reason than to be my friend.  And then I started to realize that people were doing things differently than me, because they are different than me. Simple.   And after that,  it dawned on me that people were not meeting my expectations, only because I was the one who had failed to express my desires,  failed to express what I expected.  

It took a lot of work to retrain the brain, but as soon as I started to let go of these negative thought patterns,  and accept people for who they are where they are,  I started to develop some solid, healthy friendships. 

Living on conflict takes up way too much energy,  my own, and the person I am targeting.  Get out of the habit,  accept that people do things differently.  And most of all,  don't place expectations on people that they can't live up to.  Just because you think they can,  does not mean that they can.

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Credit: Caleb Mcelhaney.

A small island in the Caribbean.   I was the kid's age when I was dragged out of Longview, TX  into a foreign country.  An island with no snakes, but filled with cactus, volcanic rock, high humidity, severe sunburn potential, scorpions that like to hide in shoes.   I was pushed into the local school where the kids and teacher spoke little to no English.  I had to learn how to make friends starting on the outside and looking in.

But I was a kid, and I was resilient.  I jumped right in and played along.  It took about 6 months of complete submersion to understand what was going on around me.  It took longer to be able to write in Dutch,  the official language.   On the playground and in the streets, I learn the local language of Papiamentu.  At home, we had to sit down again and do English lessons.

But I was a kid, and I took advantage of every situation.  Not really intentionally, but because at 10, 11, 12 yrs of age,  given free reign to roam,  that's what a kid does.  Hitch hiking with a total stranger, and watching in amazement as the speedometer needle in the Trans Am climbed above 90mph.

I rode my bike all over the island, often times alone.  Exploring every nook and cranny that I could find.  Going places that most people on the island didn't take the time to go.  I saw some really cool vistas, plants and animals.

As the years past, I got into windsurfing and plunged into an activity that would change me forever.  A wind powered tool that enabled me to skim across the surface of the water, as fast as I could hang on,  or I could simply drop the sail and dive down into the cool , crystal clear water.

I started dreaming of bigger things,  raced a couple of times,  one time making it to the semi finals.  One race director told me that I had talent,  I just needed modern equipment.  I was racing on a 20 yr old rig.

And then at age 16,  I woke up to find that I had been ripped out of paradise and dumped in the hell hole that is Charlotte.  Don't get me wrong,  Charlotte is a find place to live,  but compared to an small paradise in the Caribbean?  Yeah.

I have wanted to go back ever since,  to take my wife and show my kid what life was like.  I want to them to experience what I experienced.  And in the middle of this thought pattern,  I realize,  I don't want them to experience what I experienced.  That was and still is my life.  I want to share some of the cool things that I learned and saw,  but in the end,  I want them to have their own experiences.  I can take them back to the island (hopefully one day),  and share with them a large piece of my past,  but I need to let them have the freedom of their own experiences.

Up until recent years, I wanted to move back, to take the kid and submerse him in the language and culture.  But then realized that he is having an amazing childhood without me trying to alter it and align it with mine.  He is in an amazing school,  had amazing teachers and friends.  He is involved in the local cycling, soccer, basketball and hip hop communities.  Why not leave it like it is, and experience his childhood with him.  Be a part of his life, not direct his life.

And then it all made sense.  My childhood was not better,  just because of where I grew up.  I had some amazing experiences.  Not better, different.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Weird Dreams

I haven't been updating here much recently,  although I am updating more than I'm riding my bike....

The house remodel project of the decade is in full force and I'm learning all kinds of new skills and brushing up on others.  I will say that rock work takes patience and skill. 

I guess I'm pretty worn out, because I have been sleeping almost all night long and having some strange dreams. 

Two nights ago, I dreamed that I was in a Blue Ridge Parkway visitor's center/ office building and some kid with a revolver started shooting.  Chaos ensued and I got our safely, only for the kid to pop up right next to me.  Again I escaped, and again the kid popped up.  This cycle happened several times before the dream ended or I woke up. 

Last night, I dreamed that the kid and I were at a lake somewhere.  There were canoes in a rack, so the kid and I took one for a spin on the lake.   What followed was someone calling the cops,  me getting arrested and then going to jail for 5 months until my court date rolled around. 

What in the world? 

Maybe I need a vacation.