Friday, November 2, 2012

Aerobatics Weekend

Now for those of you not "in the know".

Not that anyone out there in this interweb thingy doesn't know every detail about me possible, whether I want it that way or not quite frankly...  I turned 40 not too long ago, and in the process of my getting older my wife got "awesomer?"  I'm sure it's a word, and if not, it is now because it's posted in the internetish ethers for all eternity.

Awesomer?  You might ask?  Naturally, you are in a huge rush to use the newest word in the collective dictionary.  I understand.  Crud, now that I bother to look, I am not the first to use awesomer...

*Sigh*  Now that I have spent at least a few minutes typing a lead-in that is leading nowhere, I'll get to the post.

You're welcome.

My wife got me a chance to go flying.  Not just flying lessons, but lessons with a twist.  A, dare I say it, awesomer twist.  There, I said it.

Aerobatic flying lessons!  I told you it was awesomer.

This was one of the most challenging things I have done.  I spent years around light aircraft with my skydiving, and have flown a limited discovery flight in a Cessna around Georgia years ago, but here was a chance to get some basic flight training and couple it with some serious aerobatics with one of the best coaches in the area. The challenge came with stuffing my brain full of concepts and flight instruction and then trying to put it into practice in the pressure of a noisy and unfamiliar aircraft.  right rudder...right rudder...don't climb...seriously quit climbing...we aren't supposed to be in the clouds...

I think I was a bit of a project for Greg who normally deals with pilots that have hundreds of hours to see what he could teach me aerobatically while I was also processing the basics of how to fly in general.

We spent the weekend up at Sky Country Lodge with Greg Koontz.  Greg has been teaching pilots and performing professionally in airshows for many years.  It was a real experience to catch up with him and his wife Cora at their place in Ashville, AL.  They made us, and another couple that were staying there, feel like family.  I can't say enough about how great they were.  I recommend you check it out if you are a pilot (or even if not as was my case) and want a weekend of fun instruction

View Larger Map

Brenna came in to hang out on Saturday and enjoy the fun of sitting at a grass strip airport like old times from when I was jumping from planes every weekend.  She seemed happy.  That may have been related to the fact that Greg and Cora cooked for us, entertained us with endless stories, and there were no kids around...aside from the semi-grown-up kind.

The set up was a bed and breakfast at Greg's beautiful house and hours of flight instruction followed by applying that training (plus some) in the air.  There was so much information to absorb it was almost too much in a good way.

We were flying a Super Decathlon  and it was a heck of a plane to learn to fly in.  Much more entertaining than the more pedestrian Cessna 152/172's that are quite common.  The Cessna's aren't bad, but this gave a whole added dimension of power and maneuverability to the mix instead of just trying to fly straight and adding in some coordinated turns.

In many ways, these flights were a "Create your own roller-coaster" experience.  With the added fear that I could actually mess things up and scare myself and the instructor pretty well.  I wanted to be good at flying for a novice, to show that I had some innate ability to do it, and I thought I knew a few things about flying.  Naturally, I discovered that even with my research and time around planes, there were a lot of nuances and theory to flying that I didn't know.  Big surprise there...

The ground school was really fun because it would take what little I knew and would either correct it or would expand on the "why" things were happening.  Then putting these things into practice in the air right after the ground lessons was a great way to hammer home the information even though I still didn't do things the way I should in the heat of the moment.  I need to go back and do some more flying now that I have had a few days to process the things I wasn't doing well in the practical portion of the flights.  I think I could improve on some things, but who knows I may just go out and not be any better at it.

At first, I was really still trying to fly the plane the way we all experience planes.  Gently and without pushing things.  After a few pointers, I realized that would just have to stop.  The plane can handle it, so go ahead and throw it around.  I feel bad for the next person that I fly with...  Would a normal instructor ground me if I rolled the plane 5 minutes into the lesson?

Let's talk about the plane a bit.  As I mentioned, we were flying the Super Decathlon which had two seats in line.  Greg would sit in back and probably try not to get sick watching my novice stick and rudder work.

It's a tail-wheel aircraft with a tiny wheel in the back to steer when on the ground, and it had a feel of an older WW2 aircraft.  Who am I kidding...It looked like something that I saw in some old movie with tail dragger aircraft, but I have no idea what a WW2 aircraft would feel like...

There were some basic instruments (only a few of which I paid any attention to, Variometer, Altimeter, and Tachometer for the most part) and easy to understand controls.  The blue control changes the propeller pitch and the red thingy changes the fuel mixture.  Funny thing I noted is that everything that can kill the engine or abruptly stop your plane from flying are denoted in red.  Good to know...

It had a high wing and Plexiglas windows on the ceiling which we put to really good use!  The majority of the plane was covered in what looked like a type of vinyl cloth aside from the engine cowling and the leading edge of the wing.  That way the June bugs and other flying objects don't make big holes in the plane when flying!

I stuck a GoPro on for the flights and found out just how goofy I look under stress and pulling G's.  And yes, I mean goofier looking than normal, as a good friend put it earlier this week...

I was able to witness Greg's passion for flying.  After putting up with me all day, we put up the Super D and he grins and says, "Hey, you guys want to fly the Cub?", and with that he pushed out another bright yellow plane.  We all took turns flying with him around the house.  You could tell, he just couldn't get enough of the fun of looping and zooming around.  It really was like watching a bunch of kids on Xmas.  All of us were having a ball.

Brenna got a chance to go for a ride in a Piper Cub from 1939 or '41, I can't remember which year exactly.  A really cool aircraft that Greg uses in his airshow to land on the modified bed of a pickup truck in "The World's Shortest Runway" stunt in the Alabama Boys comedy act.

Brenna and Greg getting ready to go on the Piper Cub.

The Cub climbing hard on Brenna's flight.

We skipped the wheels off the lake in the background, did some loops and even threw the plane into a spin for a few good rotations.  I got that on video, so you will get to see it if you haven't already watched the Timewaster Studio's production at the end of this post.

Ok, now I'm getting tired of typing, and I have to fix the dishwasher. So, here are a few other pictures, and we will get on with the video.

Permission to buzz the tower.  Negative Ghostrider...the pattern is full...
You knew you couldn't get through the post without a Top Gun quote, right?  Well there you go...

One of the most interesting moments was when Greg showed me how to make the plane quit flying.  Call it a spin, call it an "aggressive stall compounded by auto-rotation"; it's fun by any name if you have the altitude to play with.  Make the plane stall one wing more than the other by putting in full left rudder right as the plane stalls and you will fall out of the sky rapidly in a rotation.  One of the coolest things I have ever experienced.  To recover it was simple.  Just apply opposite rudder to slow the rotation first and then dive out.  This spin kills a lot of people, but the problem is that they do it accidentally at low altitude and don't react properly to fix it.  There is a lot to be said for learning how to make it happen and recover from it in controlled circumstances.

The spin.  
I'm pleased that Greg trusted me enough to fix it to take pictures while we were falling.  
I guess I wasn't THAT bad a student...

Looping over the house in the Super D.

Ok, now you have read, or just skimmed...or just scrolled down here once you got bored with the first two paragraphs.  Whatever...

The video.  I'm sorry the video did get longer than I had planned, but there was so much to put in there that I wanted to share and also remember.  I couldn't find a song that would fit with the video that didn't sound lame, and I wanted to hear the engine noise, so this video has the authentic soundtrack from the weekend. 


Aerobatics from Brad on Vimeo.

Links to Greg's site and Sky Country Lodge:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let There Be Light! The Serfas 1000

I went on a quick night ride tonight, and since last Friday's night ride was thwarted by a burned out lamp, I had borrowed a demo from the local shop Bike Link.  Good people them a visit.  

And now that I'm done with the plug of one of the local bike shops, let's talk lamps.

I demo'd the Serfas 1000 lumen lamp.  Compared to the 10 year old halogen lamp I have been using to ride through the winter nights on the Oak Mountain trails, this was a real change.  I had no idea how bright these things were.  My old lamp (a vintage 2003 Light and Motion Solo Logic MV) must be putting out a whopping 200 lumens now and will last about 2.5 hours.  This Serfas will throw off 1000 lumens continuously for 3.5 hours, 650 lumens for 6 hours straight, and up to 21 hours on the lowest level, but who cares about that last one.  I'm not planning on riding at the north pole during winter where I would ever need 21 hours straight of lighting.

Holy crap it's like having the sun packed into a bulb on your head.  Without all the heat, radiation, and massive prominences of course...  I was also told that having a set of stadium lights on my head was quite the conversation starter...

The Niner illuminated!

After spending 2 hours riding around in the woods as fast as I could go... I noted that this lamp may be more effective than my car headlamps.  You be the judge. 

The Car
The Serfas

More reason to spend time outdoors in the dark!  But with less of the dark part!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lightning Storms

I got home from a great Labor Day at the lake nervous about the week ahead.  Kicking off the budget cycle at work, big meetings, a big birthday party, and loads of important stuff that I haven't finished yet on other fronts as well.  I needed something to take my mind off the looming wall of responsibilities...

Well, the evening presented a pretty good excuse to pull out the camera and test my almost 40 year old reflexes...

Of half a zillion pictures and one dead battery pack, I got two.  I'm happy with the shots though.  This back yard is presenting a pretty spectacular venue for photographs...

Oh, and I lied about the reflexes part...  The trick is have very low light conditions, find a storm with lightning...duh, set a camera up on a tripod with a 30 second exposure, grab a chair, keep shooting while watching the storm, and presto!  See, honesty in blogging right there folks...

Happy Monday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

1st Day of School

The kids were up...slowly...  It was really early, so I understand.  The bus was supposed to arrive at a much more tolerable 6:45am vs the 6:20am at Rocky Ridge.  

The big difference this year is that aside from the kids being a year older and much larger is that Aiden had his first day at kindergarten!  He got to ride the bus for the first time!  The years of him watching from the door as the other two headed out to the bus were over.

The kids decided to trace the cat footprints in the front yard instead of going down the sidewalk.  Who wouldn't want soggy shoes and socks in 1st period?

The bus came and before we knew it, they were off and running in a new school year.


Bus pictures through the years *sniff*  They are growing too quickly for my tastes, but it's beautiful to see...

I missed 2011's picture because we took them to school that year.  The bus came at 6:20am.  I would leave with them at 7:15 and get them to school just as the bus arrived.


Ansley's first day...


I hope the year goes well!

Happy Monday everyone.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Human Weapons and wasting time...

I was wasting time on this new fangled internet thingy the other day and ran across this image.  An image of other people wasting time in a field and posting the results on the mostly-junk-filled-interwebs.

Sooo...for those of you who haven't see this yet.  I present another example that people with loads of time on their hands are creative and pretty awesome...

You're welcome...

Friday, August 10, 2012


I know it's one of those se7en deadly sins, but I do have pride.

Ok, I realize that I just put a somewhat old and disturbing movie reference in a post about good family adventures...I'm apparently on this earth to pass on random thoughts and pseudo-knowledge that roil around in my skull...  Now you know what I have to deal with ALL DAY LONG.

ahem... back to Pride...

Pride in one of the things that I know I really should take pride in.  My kids.  Specifically, one of them in this case.

It has been a long time coming, but Bryce has finally picked up water skiing!

It all happened a few weeks ago.  queue up the sappy flashback movie music...

We (being Nathan, Rick and I) had been taking the little kids out on the surfboard behind the boat for the past two summers.  

Here is an example of 2011 with Bryce on the surfboard.  He was big then...

And Aiden on the board from this year.  He tends to spend a lot of time splashing...Perfect.

The small kids are no big deal, and they love it.  Plus, riding like that gives them a good feel for how a ski moves, and what it's like to ride one with the security of an adult with them.  We got Bryce up on it with us last year on various lake weekends, but when he asked this year.  A resounding "NO!" was the answer.  Not that we didn't want to, but he is now 5 feet tall and far to large to even bother trying it.

It was unanimous that it was time for him to ride on his own if he wanted to ride at all.

Without further discussion, he hopped in the water and listened to our semi-useful coaching and gave it a whirl.  He may be too big to ride with any of us, but his weight gave him a big advantage and he popped right up!  Wooot!!!!  

I am so happy to have another generation of skiers on the boat!  I know that Ansley and Aiden won't be far behind now that Bryce has pioneered the sport for them.  On the 4th of July weekend Bryce tried out Wake Boarding for the first time too and after a few tries was making some long runs.  As soon as he was up and stable on the board, he was already cutting back and forth inside the wake to learn the control of the board.  I'm still smiling at the memory.

He looks like he's having fun!

I'll now treat you to a few awesome shots of Nathan, Rick, and myself from the 4th of July weekend.


Because they are awesome, and it's my blog!  That's why!

My boy Nathan carving up the wake on his new board.

Rick doing what he does.  Wowing the crowd and making wake boards look easy to ride...

 Back on a ski again after the broken leg.  The slalom ski feels pretty good, and its been a while for sure.

And finally, a Timewaster Studio production!  I tell you, there is just so much great content on this blog... Why it isn't the most read blog on this interweb thingy, I have no idea...

The really important part is that this is Bryce in his first Timewaster Studio feature!  I'm sure it won't be the last!!

Summer WakeSurfing from Brad on Vimeo.
Wake Surfing and Wake Boarding on Lake Lanier, GA.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What are we thinking?

Man.  I break yet another bone, spend gobs of money in the process.  The kids are getting bigger, more fun, and more time consuming by the day.  I'm in Physical Therapy, but walk like a gangsta on most days with my spectacular limp.  I'm working a good job with the budget season coming soon so busy will be the order of the day, and Brenna is trying to get a job teaching again.

Yet, we still decide to pack more into our lives.

Let's buy a house and move in the middle of all of this.  Hey, life is short lets fill it up right?

You might ask, good God, why??

Oh, yeah, it'll be worth it.

I hope this works out...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reasons for Thanks

I talked with the doctor today and my Fibula has healed well.  (with the help of a lot of screws) The Tibia is still awful looking, but I can now put full weight on the leg!  When looking at the X-rays, the doctor pointed out several pieces that he said he was literally putting and holding in place with his thumb during surgery.  There were so many splinters of bone it was a complete jigsaw puzzle.  Bleh.  It still looks pretty bad to me, but to the doctor, who honestly is the only one that knows what bad really looks like, it has healed enough for me to walk a couple of weeks in the boot without crutches.  After that, I'm free of all this.

Now that I'm limping around without the crutches, I'm thankful for several things, and I'm noticing more and more by the hour.  I imagine that I will continue to notice things that I can now do that I just couldn't a day ago.

First of all, I'm thankful for all the people that helped me through the worst of this mess.  Thanks to my friends who got me home from Montana, my wife who has since driven me everywhere for the past 9 weeks and has put up with my numerous lows in dealing with this.  I also need to give some thanks to the people at work that helped me get through the day when I couldn't carry anything.

Things that I am really happy about:

1. I can walk/limp without crutches.  (Now would be the time for one of those awesome pimp costume canes)

2. I can DRIVE again!  (I think that Brenna may be the one more thankful in this particular case.)  I might hug my Honda when I get home, but the 2 feet of pollen coating it would just make that idea gross.

3. I have been cleared to get back on my spin bike!!  While it's not riding through the trees on my favorite possessions, it's a major start down that trail.

4. I can carry my own coffee back to my desk at work without fear of wearing it or endangering others.  (one of those small yet oh-so-important elements of every day life)

5. I can walk down stairs instead of scooting down on my rear end.  (I won't feel like such an invalid but the kids won't like that I'm harder to catch and climb on.)

I'll stop now, but life is getting back to normal and I feel encouraged that I will be able to do something aside from sit by a pool when I head to the deserts of Nevada and Utah in 6 weeks.  Now I have to get stronger, drop some couch surfing weight, and get back to life as normal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A comparison but not really...

A fellow co-worker was reading through this blog and compared me to Evel Knievel.  Heh Heh...

I enjoy fast paced and somewhat risky sports but I'm hardly a daredevil.  Just look at the Red Bull website or any number of GoPro videos if you want to see what I do NOT do.  Well, at least things I don't do anymore on the skydiving front...It's official though, I injured myself much less falling out of airplanes/helicopters than I have done in several other sports.  I only broke an arm in 10 years and 730 jumps back in my skydiving days.  Hence, Skydiving is way safer than wake boarding, road and mountain bike riding, ice skating (lame story), and skateboarding down stairs.

And NO there is absolutely nothing wrong with my statistical sampling just take your mathematics degrees and stuff them.

In the humorous moment of thinking about the comparison of me to Mr. Knievel, I went to the one source that could give me some random trivia for the day.  Al Gore's interweb* thingy directed me to this other thingy called Wikipedia, which I guess is becoming the repository for all of human knowledge and will eventually become self aware like Skynet  and destroy us all... 

Back to my random trivia after a collection of tangents.  Sorry.

Evel Knievel broke a lot of bones...and by a lot I mean, “The 433 broken bones he suffered during his career earned an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of "most bones broken in a lifetime."[2]” Wikipedia: Evel Knievel

Holy Cow!  How did he even walk after his career was over...or did he?  In retrospect, I will probably break bones again since I don't really have an intention of quitting the sports I love, but I hope to hold out for at least a decade before the next skeletal catastrophe.  This current one sucks worse than any of my others.

I'll see a doc this week and see if I can actually walk without crutches anytime soon, and I'll badger him to let me on my spin bike.  I'll let you all know how it goes.

*No, Al Gore didn't actually claim to invent the Internet...He's just a typically self aggrandizing politician and not very good with phrasing in interviews during an election season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ski Whitefish Video!

Finally, Timewaster Studios has come through with another amazingly-awesomely-mega-super-fantastic video.  ah...yes, I'm somewhat biased about Timewaster Studio projects being awesome and all. 

I was only slightly bummed that I was sitting on the couch with a shattered leg and unable to actually get footage of the guys myself.  (Not that I would have been any better at praying to get a good shot as I hurtled down the slopes than the rest of the crew...but it would have been more fun for me.)  Yeah, I'm selfish I guess.

Never fear though my loyal readers and fans of Timewaster Studio projects!  I had my friends go out and ski with cameras strapped to them in my stead, and they filmed everything they could until the cold zapped the batteries.

Admittedly, it took me a while to give a rip about editing the video what with the accident and all, but there was some great stuff on there when I got around to editing!  Several hours worth of stuff actually.  As is the norm for most of my vacations, we had the GoPro's running constantly and the footage adds up.

Well, it's spring now so I'm positive it's the ideal time to get a bunch of hits on a winter ski trip video!

Enough with the rambling intro to this video.  I'm sure the gang has been looking forward to it, or they have all forgotten about it due to the length of time that has lapsed.  I just hope they didn't fall asleep reading the opening remarks here.

There...I'm done yammering...for now...

Enjoy everyone, and thanks to my good friends for the support!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Whitefish Montana - Post 2

The group of us had a great day on the slopes.  Snow fell off and on throughout the day and there was also some sun that made the powder snow sparkle on the tree lined slopes.  The trees themselves were brightened as the light hit the pillows of snow piled on the branches.  As I had heard about Montana, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes."  It changed constantly from blowing snow and zero visibility to blinding sun and blue skies. 

As the second half of the day progressed, the group of us would separate and re-join for a few hours as we all skied and boarded what we could. 

I could have used the spiritual help 20 minutes after taking this picture...

On the second to last run Paul and I stopped by to visit Big Mountain Jesus.  A statue of Christ that was built to honor members of the U.S. Military 10th Mountain Division, and it has stood there for the past 50 years. As a side note, this memorial has been subject to some legal debate on whether or not to allow it to remain.  My opinion is that the local government should have the power to allow or reject the display based on local majority opinion even if it is on "Federal Land".  It's not like a 6 foot tall statue on a ski resort mountainside is all that obtrusive and offensive.  If you don't like it, either don't look at it or you are free to not ski that run.

Paul, Nathan and I took the last lift up to the top of the mountain as the lifts closed.  The clouds had socked in the summit and the wind was whipping snow off the peak.  It was a really inhospitable looking place, but our coats and gear just made it fun to look at.  It's strange to be standing in a place like that, and to be perfectly encased in clothes that protect you so that you are comfortable even when the world outside would try to kill you in a short period without them.  We skirted the peak and looked over the deadly looking drop-offs that were marked as black diamond trails.  I really wonder if dropping into one of those trails would have been any worse than what proceeded to happen.

(Important tangent for all you readers: this next part of the trip sucks way worse than the eating heaps and heaps of humble pie as mentioned in the previous post, so if you have to choose...)

Down a trail from the summit,
Friends Nearby, 
Wind Rushing,
White Snow Made into Clouds,
Steep Rolling Trail,
Oh, NO!!! Off Balance,
Save it! Save It!
A Red Flash.

Cold snow on my face...

Please, Oh Please, Don't Let It Be Broken...

And that, my friends, is about as choppy and rapid-fire as the last moments of that run feel when I recall them.  (and it's painfully obvious from that artful bit of writing that I'm not an English Major either, but I never wanted to have a job that required me to ask "Do you want fries with that?") 

Paul was first there and Nathan shortly afterwards to help as he had to come back up the slope a bit to reach me. 

I knew it was broken.  The leg moved in a way it shouldn't when I shifted it.  The concern on both their faces was evident.  Paul stayed with me and Nathan rocketed down the slopes to tell the Ski Patrol, and from that point began the one of the most limiting and agonizing injuries I have ever had.  Agonizing not so much related to the pain, but more related to my need to move and the need to be independent.  I am trapped for a time in a body that won't let me do what I want to do. 

The Erector Set

I sat in the snow for about 20 minutes with Paul watching up the slope to warn anyone coming down that we were in the way.  The Ski Patrol arrived (without the trumpet fanfare I had imagined for some reason) and they were skilled and really wonderful people.  We actually had a couple of laughs as they splinted me and loaded me in the sled. We were so far out on the mountain that they couldn't get a snowmobile up to me.  They helped me slide into some form of sled and strapped me in.  I was covered in a vinyl tarp to keep snow from flying in my face as they towed me.  We were flying down the mountain from what I could tell, and the sled would pitch violently from side to side as the terrain changed.  That rolled me several times onto the broken leg.  I could hear the guy say, "Sorry man." when it happened.  There wasn't much to do aside from just deal with it.

When we arrived at a ski lift somewhere along the trail, (I don't know which since I was totally disoriented by the sled ride) they attached the sled to a chair and sent us up the lift to where a snowmobile could reach me and tow me to the clinic. I don't ever want to have to make that trip again. Having a broken leg and getting tossed around in a coffin like sled was the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Nathan got this picture before we decided to pull off the ski boot.  Looking back on it, I should have paid for the boot right then and there and had someone destroy it cutting it off my leg rather than what we did.  It took two people to stretch the boot open as much as possible and then we all pulled. 

Take my word for it.  Don't ever do that

Nathan hung with me when I made decision to pull the boot off my broken leg in the clinic. The medic's comment about "You Bama boys are tough." when it was over did make me feel a bit better. I'm sure he has had the opportunity to see the worst in people when they are in pain.
Feeling better with my brand new full leg cast...and loads of pain medication...

The things I have learned and will now pass on to you so you don't have to do this stuff for yourselves: 

Seriously people, please learn this stuff on your own from here on out.  I'm done being the example.

If you are skiing and find yourself saying, "Hey, I'm tired, but I have one more run in me." At that moment you are supposed to just stop and come back tomorrow.  Always leave wanting more.  I believe that this rule may apply to many other sports that risk injury.

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson at the end of the first day of the trip, and after a lovely night in the hospital, I was back in the Lodgepole house where we were staying.

I want to take the time to give my absolute appreciation to all the guys on the trip (Paul, Nathan, John, Way, Carper, and Andy)  You guys are true friends and were wonderful to have around helping out after my accident.  I can't say enough good things.  It really meant a lot to have your company, daily ski stories, and assistance while I was there.  When I get out of this cast and can move again, I'm going to throw a massive party.  Carper...Uh...plane tickets?  I may have to delay catching up with you until I can make it out to Colorado.  It will happen though.

I also have to thank my wife and friends at the office for helping me out now that I have gone on for 2 months without writing about this incident.  I owe my wife a trip to Hawaii or something since she has been driving me everywhere for the past 8 weeks...if I can ever save up enough after paying for the erector set leg.
Way and John on the lift...Twins?  Nah...

I will have the video up in the next post, and I think it came together pretty well.

Thanks again everyone.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snow in Whitefish (This was written a long time ago now)

I am an active person to say the least.  I am apparently also a fragile person (skeletally).  Which is a seriously messed up combination when I think about it.  I mean, how screwed up is it to have the desire to do the sports I do and then have a skeleton that shatters like so much glass when I make a mistake?

I went on my first serious snow ski trip with a group of guys as I noted in a few of my previous posts.  It was stellar.  The flight out, the beauty of the mountain.  The vast amounts of snow.  Trees coated with white powder so thick that they didn't even look real.  It was everything I had imagined.  But...there were a couple of points that didn't quite go as well as I had hoped.

Point #1: Humble Pie:

I don't like humble pie.  It tastes like a big pile of steaming....well you get the idea.  I went to Montana with aspirations of being able to pick up snowboarding like I have many other activities.  Pretty quickly and easily.  I mean, all those guys riding on the snowboard videos make it look easy!  I didn't have the right mindset, and the mountain knew it.  Nathan was very patient and stayed with me on what had to be the steepest "bunny slope" that could be imagined.  Not that it mattered.  His instruction was good.  My execution was pitiful.  I rode the lift up, and then fell.  (Not right under the lift like I had worried, but finding myself not being able to stop I had to do something...)  I then put the boots in place on the board and promptly fell over.  I also found that when I put the snowboard in the direction I wanted to go it went -- and by "went" I mean accelerating to 400 mph with only meager inklings of control.  *crash* 

Out of my element. 

I was seriously frustrated on the first run.  The second run was better although I nearly hit the lift tower on my descent.  That run showed promise, but as soon as I threw the board into a toe side turn I found myself face up with my ears ringing.  All the while I was thinking, "I could do back flips on a wake board, why is this so difficult?"

The third run had me gasping like a person that hasn't ever worked out in his/her life, but I could stop myself and turn for the most part.  Oh, and crash.  I had that crashing part of the lesson NAILED!!  Yeah baby!  Nathan didn't even have to teach me anything.  I was good at it like I was born to do it.  sigh...

We then took the lift to the top of the mountain.  There was no way I going to give into the fact I had only 3 short runs on a snowboard under my belt and should have given in and just taken the day on the bunny slope.  If I was going to embarrass myself and spend time beating my body into snowbanks, I wanted to have a long run of it. 

My vision was sparkling with the lack of oxygen and the panic of realizing that I had no business going up to the top.  The summit was socked in with clouds and blowing snow.  Visibility of maybe 20 yards at best.  Nathan and I managed to get lost even at the slow pace we were keeping.  He seemed to make his turns so effortlessly, and I was flailing around with my heart maxed out at 185bpm and sweating up a storm.  It turns out my first run down the mountain was on an intermediate blue trail that included sheer looking drop offs and loads of trees and narrow ski paths.  Wild times.

I crashed hard toward the bottom (for the bajillionth time) and bruised my knee.  I was done with the snowboard for the day on the 4th run.  Of course, I have some of my horrible performance on video, but the one part that I am really proud of I don't.  In the last segment of the run, we found the terrain park and some pure powder snow.  I actually hopped up on one of the wooden box slider features and rode it across and followed that up with 3-4 great sweeping turns on the board as I came to the end of the run.  It really felt good, and for 30 seconds, it looked like I knew what I was doing on a snowboard.  There is actually something to snowboarding that could be a blast if I practiced a little more.

At that point, I had eaten enough humble pie though for the day.  I traded in my snowboard for skis so I could ride the whole mountain with the rest of the gang that we had out there.  I planned on swapping back to the board in the morning and spending more time on the bunny slope.  Everyone else in the group was skiing and had been all over the mountain and had great stories of all the places I hadn't been yet.

 Off we went.

The blue trails were amazing and the black diamond trails weren't trails.  These so-called black diamonds were just sheer cliffs inviting a swift and sudden death.  Around us were vast scenes of Flathead valley and Whitefish Lake thousands of feet below, and the sun would glint off the lake and illuminate the clouds that clung to the mountain.  Even on the intermediate blue trails, allegedly gently sloping runs had a tendency to just disappear in front of you.   After a moment, you would realize that the trail didn't end, it just got that steep.  I skied pretty well and felt confident doing it.  I determined it was a great idea to split the day between the board and skis. 

Whitefish lake below on an intermediate slope...

I have written and re-written this post several times now.  Not that it would make any difference to someone reading my stream of consciousness gibberish.  My attempts have gone from Negative to Positive to Pitiful, so I have decided to bail and give you a partial story.  You know... a cliff hanger...where the hero gets away, and the girl, and wins, and all that bull...

Ah, the bitterness...  Time to stop writing again...  It's taken me over a month to get this much together...  I hope you enjoy this blog...

The video is coming soon.  It also took me a month to even think about watching the stuff.  The Timewaster Studios project is close to complete, and it's a positive and fun piece.  I promise to get it up soon.

I'll leave you with the start of the last run of the day.  We had skied all over the mountain and decided make a run as the lifts were closing. 

cue the ominous music... 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snow, Hikes , Math references, and Rocks... Intrigued? No wait! Come Back!!!

Yes it's true.  Snow will slow down a good hike in a big way.  I mean who can possibly go post-holing through hip deep snow and keep the same pace as one would during summer?  Well, while this first statement is completely true, it's not what happened to us.  We only had an epic amount of 4 inches of snow to deal with, but I'll maintain that our hike was slow-motion-ified even by this minute amount of white.

How could such a short and fun hike be so slow? 

Well, there were a couple of important factors which I will outline in one of the most important mathematical equations seen in years.  If you discount little ones like Relativity and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem...

Children from the deep south + Snow = snail like progress and constant mischief

The sound of the kids yelling "POW POW Freshies!!!" echoed through the forest whenever they found untracked snow in a clearing.  As to the Pow Pow Freshies joke, you would understand if you watched loads of stupid snowboarding shows featuring overpaid 19-year-olds skiing impossible lines off cliff faces and speaking some form of ski-bum slang that I find amusing.

The kids stopped as often as dogs on a walk.  Picking up and throwing snow at each other was the real order of the day, so we were moving at about a mile an hour.  (that's a generous speed estimate there...)

Here is Brenna with her patient face on.  This was required because every few steps Aiden, without looking, would just chuck a snowball over his head toward anyone behind him.  You had to be paying attention or you were going to have it on your head.  He thought this was the funniest thing he had come up with...EVER.

We also discovered Aiden was putting the snowballs in his pockets to save them.  He was soaked pretty quickly but seemed completely immune to the chill.  There is something about kids and snow that makes them not notice temperature.

An example of the sneak attack snowball.

Notice that Ansley was not in any of the fight pictures. She wisely avoided her brothers to avoid becoming collateral damage.

As the snowball fights raged on, we were actually on a hike.  The idea, at least, was that we were heading up to Arch Rock in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

The hike followed a stream up to the arch which had been carved out of the limestone and shale over millions of years. It was very different than the examples we had seen in Utah's sandstone.  The rocks that made up the arch had a thin layered sedimentary look to it rather than looking like the arch was carved out of a more uniform piece of rock.  Each layer was .5-1 inch thick and looked really jagged where softer stone had been eroded away leaving the harder layers exposed.

We had to cross the creek we were following a few times and the kids loved the log bridges that we had to use.  I was just happy I didn't have to pluck a soggy child out of the creek...

We found the trail actually passed through the arch itself and we had to climb a wet and slippery series of stone steps to reach the other side. The arch is almost hidden from view by trees so there wasn't a good spot to actually get a photograph of the entire structure.  Here is Ansley descending back through the arch.

It was a 3 mile hike and took us just under 3 hours to complete, and I think with all the smiles that it was exactly the right speed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas - New Years and SNOW!

We did things a little differently this year...well not the part about being nearly killed by the avalanche of presents Christmas morning.  In the line of thought from the rapidly approaching ski trip, I might recommend the adoption of a Christmas Present Mountain Avalanche Rating/Warning System for the next Christmas season.  We wouldn't want anyone hurt or lost on such a festive occasion.  We could even practice Rescue and Recovery techniques prior to Christmas morning just in case.  You never know, and you just can't be too safe, Right? just look at that digression in all its brilliant glory.

Now for a few photos to move the story along...or perhaps this post is going to turn into a slideshow rather than having much of a "story".  whatever...

Opa reading The Night Before Christmas to the eager and attention span challenged children...

The stack of presents was phenomenal...  Hence my commentary on needing avalanche rescue training...

To keep the focus on the fact that it was Christmas and that we were there to celebrate the birth of Jesus, there was a Nativity play that the kids starred in.  No theater nerves among this crowd...

And no...the Nativity didn't include Iron Man...  No matter how much Aiden may have wanted it to...

We did things a little differently this year.  Normally will gather for Christmas in Atlanta, and have a great time hanging around with the family and extended family.  The unusual part was that we didn't head to play a ton of golf in Myrtle Beach or Florida.  We opted to head for the mountains instead!

Admittedly, I was a bit unsure of going to try to find snow in the deep south in December.  Normally, we bundle up with our heaviest coats for the two days that might be considered remotely winter-ish elsewhere in the country, so snow doesn't normally even cross our minds.  We took off for Gatlinburg Tennessee at the base of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (Which turned out to be a place that I am definitely going to return to for some summer hiking.)

Look out Floridian drivers on ice...there should have been some warning flares or something...
I kept laughing to myself about our retired "Floridians" on the trip when they encountered snow.  Perhaps, I wasn't laughing to myself, because Brenna kept punching me in the shoulder saying, "Hey, That's my Dad!"

But we all know the story about when Bill put our van into orbit in Mexico on the speed bumps there,

so who knows what might have come to pass on that snowy road.  
Yep, that joke is still funny...and I'm probably not getting invited back anytime soon!

Lo and behold the morning was cold and the peaks of the pass we had to cross had been hit with a storm that put down about 5 inches of snow the night before.  

Who would have thought!  

And you would have thought the kids had died and gone to heaven.  We had to stop the car and got out to let the kids experience this interesting white stuff that they see so infrequently because they were trying to gnaw their way out through the car door panels, and my orthodontic bills are going to be high enough in the coming years.  I didn't want to find out how much fixing the car upholstery would be on top of straightening their teeth too.

You can imagine that it took about exactly .000267 seconds before someone began chucking snowballs...

Here is Bryce trying to decide if the repercussions of pegging me with a snowball were worth it...he didn't think long before pounding me with it and running!

Par for the course.  Family portrait with only one of the kids even remotely paying attention.

The house we stayed at was a cool place perched on the side of the mountain overlooking Gatlinburg.  I could really see that we would have had some trouble getting there if the roads had iced at all, but we were OK there closer to town.  The snow line was probably above 4 thousand feet, so the white coated the tops of the mountains around us, but not the roads we had to navigate.

The kids loved the fact they had to walk through snow that stayed on the porch to get to the hot tub.  Livin' large...

 I loved the view from the back porch and spent quite a bit of time just looking over the rail at the town and the Smokies.

I'll pause here in an effort to keep this somewhat short enough.  I'll post up the account of our snowy hike out to Arch Rock next, but I needed to get writing on this before it faded from memory and I ran headlong into the rest of the year.

There is some real beauty in this country surprisingly close to my house...

I hope you all had a great holiday season!