Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stepping out with Fay

Before anyone gets upset, the title of this post does not indicate that LaWanna has to be worried about another woman. In fact, I am not that that fond of Fay. She has done some good, but for me personnally, has disrupted my plans. Fay is the tropical storm that was news before Gustav took aim on the Gulf Coast. First, Fay put a damper on the Vaughn Park Family Beach Trip last weekend. Second, on the same weekend the winds of Fay dropped a large oak limb on our cable line and on my truck. No internet-no phone-no television. Then, Fay took a turn and followed us on our weeklong backpacking trip in the north Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. We managed to get started and over Blood Mountain on Monday before the rain started, which was a blessing. But before we stopped for the first night, the rains began. The next two days and nights about 10 to 12 inches of rain fell. That made it difficult to set out in the mornings and we left camp late both Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was a 12 mile day so the late start and added weight and tricky footing caused by the rain combined to make a difficult day that brought casualties. My cousin, Gene, was experiencing leg cramps and having difficulty taking in nutrition so he needed to take a break at the only highway we crossed during the week. He and my brother Keith hitchhiked to Dahlonega and got a room and ate real food. Then they hired a shuttle to where a Forest Service road crosses the A.T. and got back on the trail. We met them that evening at the next shelter.

There were some adventures that you just can not anticipate. For instance, Wednesday night between midnight and 1 a.m., I heard voices and awoke to see my Keith out of his tent talking to a man in full camo, wearing a bullet-proof vest, night vision goggles, and carrying an automatic weapon. What? Turns out that the Army Rangers training in the area had stumbled into our camp and one of them literally stumbled over a log. Keith woke up during the commotion and then most of us did as well. The commander apologized for disturbing us and advised that there would soon be gunfire on top of Hawk Mountain. They did not get very far from our campsite before we heard the men getting yelled at. It is a funny feeling to realize that the objective that could easily have been achieved was to slip through without our knowledge. The should know that I sleep with my hickory walking stick nearby.

The last few days were clear and the views were beautiful after the rain moved out. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what it is like;

This picture is of Mark and me. I am thankful that he loves the outdoors and sees God's work in creation. I appreciate that Mark would take time from work and spend the week with his dad and other old guys hiking. It was hard for him to be gone from Lindsay a FULL WEEK especially since her birthday fell during the week.

This small bridge crossed a mountain stream. After several days of rain, the sunlight at the end of the bridge served as a great icon for the feelings we had. You know, "light at the end of the tunnel".

Many people have never experienced the Appalachian Trail or anything like it, so they ask what the trail is like. The section we hiked this year has a little stretch that is flat, wide and easy walking. Most of it, however, is something like this picture. Keith is making his way up another rocky section. The reason boots are important is that you step on and over thousands of rocks in a day's time. It seems that you are always going up a mountain or down a mountain. You would think those times would be about even, but somehow it seems more uphill to me.

Here Keith clowns at an interesting rock formation. A sense of humor is essential on a week-long hike.

I will close, appropriately enough, with a picture of sunset from Springer Mountain--the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. I hoped to add more pictures but Blogger is just taking too long to upload and I have walked away from this post every day for a week. Here it is finally. We had fun, soaked up (pun intended) lots of nature, and built relationships. Most of us boosted our physical limits some as well. I am about two days from walking normally again. Mark will take a little longer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tri, Tri, Again

Here it is blogger friends, family, and stalker-non-commenter-readers. Here is my take on the Georgia Veterans Park Triathlon experience. As the athletes (I like including myself in that title) gathered at the water's edge in the minutes before the start time, the race director gave instructions on how the swim would begin in waves. There would be a start at two minutes until eight for the one physically challenged athlete (he biked on a recumbant trike that was pedaled by hand and used a wheelchair in the run--I can't imagine how much courage it took for him to attempt the swim), then the first wave consisting of the youngest men. My friend, Josh, was in the first wave (age 27). My brother, Keith, and I were in the 3rd wave. Then there were two waves of women. Two funny things happened during this time. The second was that when the horn blew for the handicapped athlete to begin, two others took off with him. They did not seem to notice that nobody else was swimming. They were very, very fast. One of them completed the swim in 4:56. I was just reaching the first bouy in 4:56! I am not saying this guy could beat Michael Phelps but he might beat some of the olympic swimmers. Of course, he was already disqualified. I know it is backwards to give you the first funny thing second, but it leads into the rest of the story. The first funny thing was that after the race director gave instructions to all but two of the competitors (maybe the yellow rubber caps were too tight on their ears), he was filling time by being charming. "How many first-timers?" he asked. Lots of hands. "How many have been competing in triathlons more than 25 years?" Only a couple of hands--mostly, I think because the question caught them off guard and some were doing the math. I joked to my brother that we could raise our hands because we did a triathlon together at Oak Mountain in....well, I don't remember what year that was--but probably more than 25 years ago. So, we have not been continuously doing them 25 years, but more like once every 25 years. I decided that was how I would present a few pictures. The first hilarious picture is of me emerging from the water after a half-mile-swim-near-death experience at Oak Mountain state park enough years ago that I still had dark hair and beard. Same belly, shorter swimsuit. Back then, everybody went into a makeshift changing area made by putting up two-by-fours and nailing tarp to it to change clothes between race segments. Now folks come out of the water and jump into shoes already clipped to bike pedals and take off.

I have no idea who the old lady is that thinks it is sooo funny that I can not swim and the "rescue canoes" followed me to shore. Question; How WOULD they have pulled me into that canoe?
That picture is not funny enough for you? Well, the second one is as funny as it gets. Warning to my kids and brother--steal this photo and have fun with it at your own peril!

I would like to point out that I was being a good samaritan and picking up equipment left by others. That is what I would like, but the truth is I thought I was going to drown last year--really. So I called for a life preserver. This is the picture of a sad, defeated man.
But there was redemption (of sorts) this year.

The second old guy in this picture is me. I like this picture for several reasons. 1) I am not carrying a life preserver. 2) There are still people in the water (although they started much later than I did). 3) There is a man that started with me just right THERE--I could almost touch him.

After putting on a show for my many fans (hi, mom--hi, LaWanna--hi, Samantha and Josh's parents) it ocurred to me that the sensors that registered the signal from our anklet was just up the shore and if I ran through this shallow water ahead of that old guy, I would beat at least one person from my wave. See ya grandpa!

The triathlon was lots of fun. After finishing, I had the feelings I always have--elation from finishing, satisfaction of doing the best I could at the time, and frustration with not training more, harder, sooner. And so it goes. For one hour and 46 minutes I feel that I am doing all I can do and almost as soon as it is over, I am sure I could have done better. That is part of why I do these things. Also, the opportunity to be amazed at what young strong athletes can do and the thrill of seeing older--much older--athletes finish strong reaffirms that we were created to test our bodies and our bodies reward us for the effort.

I wonder if Michael Phelps will be available for swim lessons?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.

Socrates (philosopher)

Just Imagine....

Take a look at these three kids. What do you think they might accomplish in life? Let me help you by pointing out that the two in blue are girls, not young Bee Gees. Focus, however on their little brother in the middle. Does he look familiar?

Maybe a later picture will help.

Yep, that tall, skinny kid with the dumbo ears and funny lisp is Michael Phelps. No, he did not BECOME Michael Phelps--he always was. With the right combination of genetics, a coach that believed he was special, a missing dad, and an encouraging mom he forged the determination and belief that led to massive training and astonishing results. It is fun to watch as his gold medals pile up and the world records tumble. He makes it seem effortless--and fun! In a few weeks he can retire as a very wealthy man. Most of us would love to trade places with him--now. I would love to be able to eat all that he eats and be that lean. But....I am not willing to swim 50 miles per week--fast--in order to arrive where he is. It takes work. More work than anybody else is willing to do. For a long time. With no guarantees.

But how inspiring is it to look at that normal, everyday kid and see what he has already accomplished. Just imagine what you and I might be able to accomplish with hard work and a little encouragement.

This sad note from today's headlines; Michael Phelps appeared to be headed for yet another gold medal and world record when his swim cap slipped up on one side. After his ear popped out, he swam in circles until everyone in the field had finished the race.

Couldn't resist.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coosa River View

I found another way to photograph the Coosa River today. This is from a bluff looking south.
If you click on either picture and look along the shore on the right, you may be able to see a few cows that have made their way through the wooded area to drink at the edge of the river.

"And I say to myself, what a wonderful world."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Who is Number One?

These headlines are being reported today by the Associated Press;

"Georgia says Russian aircraft bombed its air bases"

Nice try, you dirty red communists. The Bulldogs are still ranked #1 in the nation!

GO DAWGS!!! And come quickly, fall.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Nitrous Oxide

This car, spotted in Wetumpka, Alabama, screams on behalf of its owner "Yes, I can afford to equip my car with a Nitrous Oxide set-up in order to drive insanely fast. But I can only afford this 79 cent thumb latch to keep the door shut!"

Monday, August 04, 2008

Not What I Expected!

Well, here it is. Somehow, I expected it to be more....I don't know.... glitzy.

Game Face

It is time to put my game face on! The countdown has reached 12 days to the triathlon. Keith and Josh, I am coming for YOU!

Thanks to all who asked, but no, the race number is not my actual age.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Motorcycle Mama

I guess it is time for some "Blog-lite".

"Hey, that Harley dude has a pink helmet!"

Wait a minute--that dude is a....biker babe?

And somebody's arm in the truck window.