Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lake Lurleen Hammock Camping and Mountain Biking

On the last weekend of the kids' Spring Break I took the Hammock Tent out to Lake Lurleen State park.  This was probably my last moment alone to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, for the year, so it was important to take advantage of the time.  Brenna and the kids were in Tampa with family and I stayed behind to work the week.  Once I got the forecast done I scrambled south to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and then to the park which is a few miles outside of town.

I am not much on sleeping on the ground and bringing along heavy inflatable mattresses (Yes, I'm a wus...I admit it) but the remedy to this is the Hennessey Hammock.

You sleep comfortably in the tent with it's rain flap and bug net, and the best part is with this kind of hammock, you can sleep diagonally in the tent and the sleeping surface is flat.  You can roll over, sleep on your side, and whatever other position makes you happy.  Its rare to find a 3lb camping shelter that takes up barely any room the backpack, sets up that easily and allows comfort when out in the woods.

Enough with the gear review.  Its awesome.  Period.

I did get ribbed by the ranger at the park though.  She was asking "Where's your tent?"  To which I replied, "It's hanging from the tree over there."  She countered eloquently, "That's not a tent, it's a hammock with a doohicky over it.  We usually don't let people without tents stay in the campgrounds but I'll let it slide tonight."

I queried as to why there was a Campers-Must-Have-A-Tent rule the next day.  (Nope, I didn't push my luck debating campground policy prior to spending the night there.)  She said that people without tents tend to "do things out in the open" with all the other campers able to see.  I can only imagine...  The policy isn't for the privacy of the people in the "non-tent" category, it's for the protection of the other campers there and their kids since some people are morons.  (My words not the rangers) After that explanation, I half-understand the policy, but I guess since I didn't look like a drunken idiot, the ranger made a judgement call that my one person campsite wasn't going to be a problem.

The next morning, I cooked up a fine breakfast of tea, eggs and toast on the camp stove and got ready to hit the trails.  Lake Lurleen has about 19 miles of trails available, and I figured I would ride them twice on the rented Gary Fisher 29r rig that I had borrowed from Cahaba Cycles.  A side story is that I had this demo bike because I had broken my current bike frame earlier in the week.  So sad to see the old Ionic fail due to all the miles and splashing around in creeks I have done over the years.

I took out the Gary Fisher Xcaliber 29r and enjoyed it thoroughly.  It's a hard tail aluminum frame with monster truck wheels.  I'm pretty well sold on the big wheeled bikes now although my video doesn't look as smooth as some other ones, the ride was pretty good.

The bike itself was fun and feels really smooth over smaller bumps.  It also climbs really well and I find it rolls downhill faster than my former Ionic.  I figured a good 40 miles of riding on one would seal the deal on a 29r, and it has.  It has also sealed the deal on getting a 29r with full suspension.  Forget all the standing and getting kicked all over the bike when you hit rocks.  I'm going plush on the next ride.  I might even name it, "The Couch".  We will see when I actually get around to picking up a bike.

I flatted 3 tires in 60 miles of riding and that was the only drawback to the two rides I had with this bike that week.  One particularly nasty flat was a front tire blowout as I bombed down a hill and had to make a sharp left at the bottom.  The front tire just rolled under and sent me flying a la Superman.  Glad I didn't hurt too much at the time, but I am still sore two weeks after the fact from that crash where the bike flipped up behind me and hit me somehow.

The trails there were fun and had loads of switchbacks but lacked something.  They would be great to bring a beginning rider that wanted to spend a couple hours covering all the different loops.  There isn't anything that created white knuckle sensations aside from my own ineptitude at staying upright on a bike and inner-tube failures.  One thing I thought was interesting was how the lower into the gullies you rode, the vegetation would change to a lush green, and up on the ridges the trees still look bare and wintry.  

Anyway.  That's a lot of outdoor gear and trail review for one post.  I will sign off with a short video of the trip.  

Or directly to the YouTube HD 1080p version: Here

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blogging, Time Passing, and a Happy Birthday!

I realize that my life, which is the general basis for this blog, is so busy and "fun" that its seriously hampering my abilities to write about it. Something of a paradox, eh? The more there is to write about the less time there is to write about it?  I'm sure you are all like totally..."Whatever dude...shut up and get on with the post.  We could care less about the paradox that you mention since it happens to absolutely everyone."

Ok ok, people... calm down.  I'll get to the point of the post.

I do want to throw in a small note, since all the records that I am amassing here in this blog will eventually help me remember who my kids are when I'm 80...who am I kidding, when I'm 60 with my memory.

That small note being that I now have a 9 year old son.

Holy cow.

How in the flying flippity flap did that happen? Well, I know HOW it happened smarty pants readers... A question like that is rhetorical for crying out loud...

Anyhoo, I got a message from my Dad today as he was digging through his own digital camera archives, and it depicts my now 9 year old son as a 1-ish year old toe head kid sitting on my shoulders at a Christmas parade on a fine cold day in Florida. Yep, it was a frigid 70 degrees. I can tell because we have long sleeves on. When it actually hits 68 degrees, all the true Floridians don their finest leather jackets and parade around like it's Green Bay, WI or something.

Here he is. Wow. What a cute little kid.

And, as one of my best friends mentioned, much less hair I have now vs. then. Pffft...whatever.

For current reference, so you can see the amazing change from those photos to now.  I hereby present this excessively over produced silly video.  You can see the biggest change (aside from Bryce not being seen small and on my shoulders) that there are two other really big children of mine in the images.  Neither of which were even alive at the point of the photos of Bryce above.  Wow.

How did that happen???

Oh wait...I've said that already.

Happy 9th Birthday!

Now in 1080p HD if you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reef Diving in Cozumel Mexico

To follow up with my last post, we had a second dive on the outing while we were in Cozumel.  It's the little island in the map below, and if you use the little plus sign on the embedded image, you can even zoom in to see a few cruise ships.  Kind of a cool technology...I wonder if the satellites know where I put the TV remote?

View Larger Map

For those of you that are non-divers, you will generally do a 2 tank dive during the course of an outing.  I'm sure that you can do more, and the guides we were using there stated that they usually did 4-5 dives in a day.

Part of the process is you will do the deeper dive first and then follow up with a more shallow dive after a period of rest on the surface.  I won't go into the details of why this is the sequence, but it has to do with the body absorbing Nitrogen gas in the blood at depth and expelling it through spending time on the surface.  If you get too much Nitrogen gas in your blood and surface, you can certainly hurt yourself since it will form air bubbles in your blood and joints called decompression sickness or "The Bends".  At best, this condition really hurts, and at worst, can kill you.  Hence the very conservative rest period and a shallow dive following a deep one. On a side note, my ever so perfect wife is sure that she can actually get the bends by getting up out of bed too early.  I don't think I have seen good scientific evidence of this being actually dangerous, but what do I know, though?

The video attached is the shallow dive of our two dives of the day.  The water was in the upper 70's and very clear, but after a bit of soaking in that temperature, it definitely produced some pretty good chatters.  It's absolutely worth it to see the marine life though.  On this trip, we encountered large coral heads, but not quite as massive as further down the wall in the earlier in the day.  If you missed the last post, it's here.

I should know what the reef name is, but due to some really strange and unusual me not paying attention, I can only recall something like.  "And for the second dive we will be diving on the mumble mumble blah blah mumble Reef.", and thusly, I have taken my amazing ability of creativity and  named it "The Reef Dive".  Yep.  REALLY descriptive there, but it has a good ring to it, so I think it will stick...

Seriously people, cut me some slack, and if you know what the reef name was through some random tidbit of knowledge, send me a note in the comments section and tell me.  Yeah, I know I'm typing to myself again, and since I'm probably the only person reading this blog, I will guess the odds of me sending myself the correct information in the comments section are slim to nil.  Whatever...

On with the video, and as always, have a wonderful and safe week.  Get outside and enjoy, you can find the TV remote later!

And, the HD version is linked here, but you will have to go to the YouTube site to see it.  Just click below.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cruise to Cozumel

You can go ahead and thank me for not putting that Enya Sail Away song over and over on my video of this trip, or perhpas the Styx version by the same title.

There I had to do it.  I'm sorry. I'm so Sorry.  You don't have to thank me now...

Cripes...that's tough to listen to and even tougher to recall the awkward years of youth with a song like that actually on the radio...

Now that I have embarrassed myself thoroughly because I know either of the two songs mentioned above, not that it matters since nobody reads this blog and I'm typing to myself basically.  Oh well, I will get on with the post.

Brenna and I managed to get away on a couples cruise to Cozumel with like ten zillion (read: about 20) of our friends and soon to be friends.  The dynamic of so many people all getting along well was cool.  Very low drama and we enjoyed the company of some really great people.

Cozumel is one of our favorite Scuba diving places on the planet.  Not that we have been to all of them, but it's still one of our favorites...

We really enjoyed the cruise and goofing off as the ship gently rumbled and rolled across the gulf.  The winter of Alabama receded quickly and was replaced by the semi-tropical climes that we remember from our Florida days.  The February sun was brutal and had the potential to fry our tender winter hides, but also having some Florida experience and being, well, "older" now, we opted for sunscreen rather than tanning oils and made it through without looking like the lobsters we ate on board the ship.

We were on the Carnival Elation, which is an older ship that travels out of Mobile Alabama, and it was perfect.  No big deal or production to get to the boat from our home and it was small enough (only 2,000 people vs the big ships of 4,000-5,000 passengers) that we could actually get around without feeling like we were on a cattle car.

Brenna and I were really excited about getting back in the water as we hadn't been diving since our St. Lucia trip (which was awesome and can be read about here, and here, and here...Ok, I wrote a lot about St. Lucia...)

We docked in Cozumel and met up with the dive boat which was run by Sand Dollar Sports, and they did a great job of getting us out to the dive site and making everyone feel comfortable.  It was our second time using the shop and they are good.  Check them out if you are ever down in the area.

The first dive was on Santa Rosa Wall which starts off as a sandy bottom at roughly 50ft, has some great coral heads to explore and tunnel through, and the wall itself drops into the abyss.  I tried to find out how deep it was, but I couldn't find anything on Wikipedia to give me a good estimate of the depth, so I'll just's deep.  Like the kind of deep that will easily kill you before you get anywhere near the bottom.

I took the ever so versatile GoPro 960 camera down on its inaugural dive adventure.  I know it was rated as a waterproof housing, but it seems such a gamble to jump in the water with a video camera after years of hearing your dad tell you not to do stuff like that...

As if it wasn't obvious by now the camera survived, and it worked!  It's certainly no dive camera from a professional standpoint, but for all the stuff I do with it, it's great!  Now I wonder if GoPro will send me the upgraded 1080p HD version for all the dang free advertising I give them...Oh, wait.  Nobody reads this blog, so I guess not...  Fudge...

Well, readership or not, I got to use the new iMac I bought after the PC died and edited this video for all your viewing pleasure. I hope you like it, and have a great week.

And as always, the HD link is here since the frame is too big to fit in this blog column.