Posts filed under ‘Mike E’

The Sacrifice of Lent

Yesterday Mike E called me up for lunch.

“Sure,” I said, “But I can’t eat meat.”

Mike hesitated and said, “I thought that was cheese?”

“Well, that too!” I laughed and went on the explain the Friday meat restriction.

Patient Mike ended up picking a good lunch place– Sushi Factory at University Mall! He brought along a co-worker who was also observing Lent. As we enjoyed our meals, Mike’s co-worker pointed out that often on Fridays he ends up eating more extravagantly than usual, because he splurges on seafood.

I never really thought much about it, but that guy sure did hit the nail on the head yesterday! Last night for supper, Ann and I took her kids to Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse. Kabuki turned out to be the perfect place for my Lenten diet. It has plenty of fish and seafood to choose from, lots of veggies, not a single slice of cheese to be found…AND at Kabuki, one is always too stuffed to even think about dessert! 🙂

Kabuki was also the perfect place for the kids. We had a wait for our table, but they had plenty of aquariums to keep Penn and Gwyn occupied:


Penn enthralled with the Kabuki fish

The chef’s cooking performance mesmorized the children while the food is prepared:


Penn and Gwyn are too interested in the onion volcano to look at the camera.

Finally, the staff really seemed to take to the kids. The chef, in particular, was very Penn-friendly. He let Penn play with his spatula. He let Penn try to catch a shrimp with his mouth like the adults (Penn missed…twice). He encouraged Penn to show off his Tae-Kwon-Do moves to the entire table. Finally, when Penn annonced, “I LIKE RICE!”, the chef responded by giving Penn a whole plate full of rice!


Penn and his plate full of rice

So here I am at the beginning of my season of sacrifice and I had sushi for lunch and then Kabuki for dinner.

Yeah, I’m not quite living a deprived life at the moment! 🙂

P.S. Watch out Cafe de Bangkok. I have my sights set on you and your divine tofu for next Friday!

February 24, 2007 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

Pearis Mountain in the Snow

For those of you who don’t know, I have a new boss! And apparently he knows me well. When he was telling me I could pick my own work hours, the example he used was, “So you can hike in the morning and work in the afternoons and evenings.” 🙂

Sounded nice, but I didn’t expect to take advantage of it so quickly. Well Tuesday night we finally got a snow down here in Blacksburg. Like my friend, Mandy said recently on her blog, “this may be THE snow of 2007!” So I called my new boss and he gave me permission to go (even though it meant missing a conference call).

This is what we do for love! The next morning, I woke up earlier than I do for work. I got dressed up in my layers, grabbed Jimmie and headed out in the X-Terra on snowy roads.


Morris Street in Pearisburg (I was not driving the vehicle during this shot).

Henry the beagle sat this one out. Although Henry is three years younger than Jimmie, he’s already threatening to retire from hiking. He has some back problems and he looked stiff after the Brush Mountain hike. Henry was assigned a very important duty though. He had to lay in bed, watch TV and keep Sean company.

Our destination was my favorite mountain — Pearis Mountain which is home to Angel’s Rest. In recent years, my longer outings with Mike E have made Tinker Mountain a worthy rival for the favorite mountain title. The two mountains are pretty neck and neck, but Pearis has been the incumbant for years, so I’ll give it the edge.

It was a beautiful, invigorating hike. Jimmie and I were the first to walk on that snow, so all you have was the trail and our footprints.


Bend in the Appalachian Trail on Pearis Mountain

Despite the snow I was making good time…for me (I’m notoriously slow at ascents). I could get snippets of the view to come between the trees and I knew it was going to be great. And I found myself counting chickens before they hatch. I was already planning on who I was going to send picture messages to from the top. Derek, Sean, Ann, Mike’s email (how do I have a friend without text messaging? Even my mother has it!), Larry, etc. A while after I passed the old power line tower, I hit a snag.

I slipped and fell. That’s not unusual– I have fallen before on hikes. In fact one time on the way to Dismal Falls I managed to fall flat on my face within ten feet of getting on the trail! So I got up and continued on. Before I knew it I slipped and fell again.

What in the world was going on? I wiped away the snow and discovered that underneath was a continuous sheet of thick ice. It was nothing like the ice I saw on Brush Mountain.


What’s underneath that snow? Why a thick sheet of ice, that’s what!

I did give the trail a very cautious benefit of the doubt. I had to be cautious– we can’t have me and Sean with broken feet, can we? I continued on for another switchback or two (sometimes using the nearby trees as security), but the conditions did not improve. Jimmie, of course, had no problem whatsoever. I tried to follow his lead and “Four Wheel” it for a while, but that didn’t work. Jimmie’s dainty little feet didn’t sink all the way through the snow, so he always had some traction. I was heavy enough that I always contacted the ice. Blast that Britney Spears weight.

As usual, Jimmie was ahead of me. Everytime I slipped, he’d look back and appear so baffled. I had to laugh– I kept thinking about the game of touch football in the movie Wedding Crashers.


“What are you doing? […] every time I look over you’re on your ass again!”

Jimmie and I were oh so very close to the top. We had passed that last rocky crossing and were already seeing the rhododendrons that cover the top. Very tempting, but we summoned the strength to wuss out and headed home. Although I knew the view would be “to die for”, I also knew it wasn’t actually worth dying for.


As far as we got– view near the top of Pearis Moutain

It was still a wonderful outing and great exercise. Just a splendid morning and suddenly even late afternoon conference calls went by quickly. 🙂

All my pictures from this snowy Pearis Mountain hike are available on my Flickr site.

P.S. That night, my new boss treated me to a hot chocolate. Am I living the life or what?

February 9, 2007 at 10:18 am 7 comments

Something the Thru-Hikers Miss

Each year over a thousand hikers embark on hiking the whole Appalachian Trail. I think there is roughly a 20-25% completion rate. These hikers, even the ones who don’t manage to finish, gather up memories of the trail that I, as a mere day-hiker, can only imagine. I certainly enjoy my showers and hot meals, but I do envy the unique experiences those hikers must have. Parting with all the daily obligations of their lives, all the views they see as they travel through fourteen states, the comradery they have with other hikers and finally, the fulfillment they must feel 2000 miles later when they have completed their challenge.

Yesterday, Bill and I made a trip down to the Butt Mountain Overlook. It was a quick trip– We headed that way, admired the view, took some pictures, watch Jimmie take three dumps and two hours later we were back home. Last night when I was looking at one of my pictures of the view, I recalled I had a similiar shot from a July trip with Mike E. It was neat to flip back and forth and look at the difference.

Then I was reminded… The thru-hikers who pass through this area each year certainly have a wealth of experiences that I do not have, but there is one thing I have one thing that they don’t. I get to see this area year-round. I get to see the same spots through different seasons and different weather conditions. I get to see the blooming rhododendrons in June and I get to see them all curled up in the winter, adding a green contrast to the white snow. I know that Angel’s Rest is best in the fall, the Cascades are the prettiest in the winter* and Wind Rocks is so very haunting in the fog. In the early spring and winter I get to see extra views before the leaves are on the trees that you would never notice in the warmer months (for example you can see only Mountain Lake from Bald Knob when there are no leaves) when the thru hikers are passing through. And then when the leaves are there in the summer, I get to marvel at the beauty of all the green along with all the other hikers.

I’d say the score is still about 1279 to 2 (I’m also counting “Sitting in Larry’s Hot Tub Afterwards” as a point for me). But for what it is worth, here are some samples from my hiking photos of similiar shots in different seasons (Note: Not all are Appalachian Trail hikes). Enjoy!

Butt Mountain

Winter


Summer

Bald Knob

Spring – You can see Mountain Lake in the upper right


Summer – No Lake Visible

Falls Ridge

Winter


Late Fall

McAfee’s Knob

Spring


Summer

Cascades

Strong Winter


Mild Winter


Spring

Carvin’s Cove

Spring


Summer

Pearis Mountain (Past Angel’s Rest)

Spring (this was my 30th birthday hike!)


Summer

*The Thru-Hikers would certainly struggle to know Cascades is prettiest in winter seeing as how it isn’t on the AT.

January 29, 2007 at 1:26 am 13 comments

A Thank You to Good Friends

As I mentioned, Sean and I are getting hardwood floors installed next week and we have to move everything off the first floor. Last night Sean added a finger to his injury inventory. Between that and the broken foot, he isn’t quite a key contributer to the moving efforts. And there are some things that just one able-bodied person is not able to move.

In August, a few of us drove up to Moneta to help friends paint their house. We had a great time and teamwork allowed the task to be completed quickly. Today, was a very similiar experience. Only this time I was on the receiving end of the efforts! Ledman, Mike E, Larry, Lindsay and even little Penn Jones showed up to help move. Ann couldn’t help with the lifting, but she still found a way to contribute. She made a delicious chili (with mushrooms– I’m starting to believe mushrooms compliment everything– they are delicious little sponges that soak up the flavor of whatever dish they are in. A concentrated version of the meal in one chewy bite) and her trademark brownies and brought them over to feed all the volunteers.

Together, the first floor was vacated of large items in a little more than an hour. We finished up so quickly, in fact, by the time Bill C arrived– we were all done for the day!!! 🙂

Without these people’s assistance, this would have been an impossible task. So, a lot of gratefulness is felt today. Sean and I are very lucky to have such good friends.

Now… we just need to manage to keep said friends for about another week or so. 😉

January 28, 2007 at 1:19 am Leave a comment

Hope as a Preventive Action

Section 8.5.3 of the ISO 9001:2000 standard discusses preventive action and its requirements. One such requirement is a documented procedure that defines five aspects of preventive action:

a) determining the potential nonconformities and their causes,
b) evaluating the need for action to prevent the occurence of nonconformities,
c) determining and implementing the action needed,
d) records of results of actions taken (see 4.2.4), and
e) reviewing the preventive action taken

Yesterday, I was away from work, but still got to see first hand why all those steps are valueable in a preventive action. Mike E and I took the dogs out for a quick hike. When we first arrived at Falls Ridge, Mike promptly said, “Hey there’s a wild turkey wing here.”

Sure enough, right by the car was a severed, rotting wing from some poor turkey. I managed to corral the dogs away from it and we went along our merry way.

On the way back, we neared the car and I noticed Henry’s pace pick up.

“Oh, I hope he doesn’t roll in that turkey wing,” I said and then I promptly got distracted by a nearby trail map. I was hoping to find historic details on a structure Mike and I were looking at.

By the time I turned my attention back to Henry he was actively rolling on the decomposing wing. I yelled and ran his way, but by the time I could reach him and pull him off, he had successfully rubbed his entire body over the carcass.

Henry
Henry (pre Turkey Wing Encounter)

So in this situation, I had successfully determined the potential nonconformity (the opportunity to produce a smelly, disgusting dog) and I knew its root cause (Henry is an idiot). But that’s where my effort stopped. I never took any action to prevent its occurence. Instead I focused on other items (as many of us tend to do with all our hectic work duties). Before I knew it, the dreaded nonconformity happened.

On the upside, I have examined the “results of the actions taken.” I can confirm without a doubt that “hope” is not an effective prevention tool. I believe this applies equally to both bad dogs and processes within an organization:

Hoping that the bad thing, the scenario that turns your stomach, does not happen– is not going to keep it from happening.

November 14, 2006 at 9:57 pm Leave a comment

Memories of Meredith – Still Going Strong

In June, my friend Meredith moved from nearby Christiansburg, all the way to California. Here’s a journal excerpt about her going away party. It’s from my June 25, 2006.

When we first arrived – Bill and I walked over to a large grounp standing outside watching one of their friends swinging wildly at a pinata.

I realized I had forgotten the card for Meredith — so I made a trip back to my car. As I walked down the gravel driveway in the dark dusk, I could hear Meredith’s voice above all the others. It made me smile– at her party and her moment, she was shining. However, as I got further and further away from the party and closer to my car, her voice started to fade away. My smile dropped, realizing the same thing may happen to my memories of her. They are loud and clear now and prevalent above the others — but eventually they may fade away.

Well, five months has past and so far so good. My memory of Meredith is still going strong, especially this past week! It seems all week I had little brushes with a Meredith Memory:

  • Friday
    Phifer organized a surprise birthday dinner for Bret. So at 10 PM, Bill, Andy, Phifer, Bret, Larry, Lindsay, Sean and I convened on Kabuki for the traditional gorging on high sodium foods. Kabuki did make me think of Meredith as I accompanied her there often and I believe we had two seperate going away feasts there.
  • Saturday
    Saturday was the tailgate, so I had some wine– a cabernet sauvignon. It was Meredith who helped fuel my love of wine– taking me to Villa Appalachia and inviting me to wine tasting parties at her house. Plus I learned I liked cabernet sauvignon by copying Meredith. At restaurants I would cheat and just order whatever she ordered! 🙂
  • Monday
    Monday on a whim, I took off early and spent the afternoon hiking with Mike E. Daylight is scarce nowadays. Luckily I was able to expose Mike to a nearby gem– the Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in Ellett Valley. Meredith’s memory is strong there. She was the one who first introduced me to the spot. She and I visited on a number of occassions– including the day before my wedding (it proved to be a great way to relax before nuptials)! Frequently while Mike and I explored yesterday, I’d mention Meredith. “Meredith and I once climbed to that rock!”, “Meredith and I walked down that way.”, etc.
  • Tuesday
    Today, Mike E, Tony Airaghi and I tried out Sushi Factory. It’s a new sushi place in University Mall. Once again, I thought briefly of Meredith. She was there when I first tried sushi and she organized a number of the subsequent sushi gatherings I attended.

So perhaps if I keep on eating, drinking wine and hiking– Meredith’s memory will never fade away.

Unless, of course, I take the wine drinking part of the equation a little too seriously. 🙂

November 14, 2006 at 8:35 pm 2 comments

Misery – Tom Waits and Mao, Jodi and Me

Misery is the River of the World

As Mike E and I commuted back and forth on our trip to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park last month, he introduced me to his favorite artist, Tom Waits. There were a number of songs that I was fond of (especially from a live album Mike played), but my favorite song was Misery is the River of the World. That song has a very methodic rhythm to it, reminiscent of tides or currents. I especially liked trying to make my voice deep and rough to mimic Waits’ gravelly vocals and try to sing along. But, it’s the title of the song that is proving to be the most lasting impression:

Misery is the River of the World

The notion that misery flows throughout and feeds the entire world reminds me of a quote I read by Mao Zedong:

A long period of peace, pure peace without any disorder of any kind, would be unbearable…and it would be inevitable that peace would give birth to waves… I am sure that once we entered [an age] of Great Harmony, waves of competition and friction would inevitably break forth that would disrupt [it]… Human beings always hate chaos and hope for order, not realizing that chaos too is part of the process of historical life, that it too has value…

So according to Mao the absence of misery (aka “pure peace”) would bring forth boredom and unrest. My tournament bridge experience may support this theory. At times, I managed to upset myself with a poor play more than I upset my partner, otherwise known as “Dad”. In those cases, my father would remind me (paraphrased):

If we played perfect every time, it would be boring. There’d be no point.

Another thing I find notable about the Mao quote is his thought that “chaos too is part of the process of historical life, that it too has value.” Historically the times of war are accompanied by periods of innovation, invention and increased productivity. WWII brought forth a number of inventions and new products ranging from the atomic bomb to M&Ms. It also brought strides in quality control processes as well as recycling. Misery brings with it necessity and necessity brings forth revolution.

Misery is the Unit of Measurement (for Vicky)

Waits and Mao paint misery as inevitable part of life and Mao extends it to a necessary and valuable part of life. In my life, I don’t think I actively seek out misery (some may point to my work schedule and cite that as contradictory evidence). However, I have a whole slew of recent examples where I am unnerved by the absence of misery. I’ve grown accustomed to using it as a subconscious unit of measurement. When the misery does not match what I expected from the task at hand, I feel out of sorts.

Backpacking in the Smokies
When Mike, Kipp and I went backpacking in the Smokies, we carried our heavy packs for 8 miles and ascended up (and back down) roughly 2000 feet. Although I struggled a lot that first mile and had my fair share of discomfort and doubt, I certainly did not have the magnitude of misery I expected. I expected it to be harder than all other hikes I’ve attempted. I expected to want to turn around; I expected to want to cry; I expected to have to force my legs to keep moving on. That just never happened. So when it was all said and done, it did not feel like we ascended as much as we did. It still doesn’t.

User’s Conference
Last week was our annual User’s Conference. Like last year, I had some speaking engagements. This year we had almost twice the amount of attendees, so the audience was quite a bit larger. Now, although I did have some nerves before I spoke, it was no where near the amount from the year before. In fact, I believe last year my hands quivered at the very beginning. This year said hands were steady. So this year, when my speeches were over, I found myself thinking, “Wow, did that really happen?” The sensation didn’t solidify in my head without the nerves.

Traveling
Back when I suffered from the self-induced misery of emetophobia (fear of vomiting), traveling proved to be an ordeal wrought with all sorts of anxiety. It would start weeks ahead of time. I’d worry about getting the stomach flu or food poisoning when I was so far away from home. I’d worry about turbulence causing motion sickness on the plane. I’d worry about losing my appetite from worrying. Why? If I lost my appetite and didn’t eat, I’d get so hungry I’d grow nauseous and when I grew nauseous, I’d gag. Even when I was already on a trip and I had some successful meals behind me, I’d still worry. Will I be hungry for dinner? What if I’m not hungry? If I am hungry, what will I eat? What if they don’t have anything I like? I didn’t realize it at the time, but all that worrying and anxiety really monopolized and taxed my body’s resources. I would completely drain myself, adding to the misery that was already there.

Welp, it has now been years since I’ve been liberated from that worry and I’ve certainly traveled up a storm! Without all the worry and anxiety, even the most unpleasant trips and circumstances, are so peaceful and pleasant. In other words, external miseries (flight cancellations, lodging mishaps, etc) are absolutely no match for the internal misery of my past.

Despite all the years that have passed and all my successful travels, it still feels very weird to me that trips do go so smoothly without any mental anguish. Very frequently, it almost feels like the trip did not happen. I marvel about the sensation in my journal entries from numerous trips. Here’s an excerpt from my trip to London in January 2005:

These latest trips I’ve been taking — it feels like they aren’t real — they feel like a dream. Why? Because I have no anxiety. It still doesn’t feel like a trip if I don’t have a horrid ado in my head for weeks beforehand.

I wonder how many decades will have to pass before I adjust to the missing anxiety?

Misery is the Unit of Measurement (for Others?)

I may not be alone in feeling surprised by the absence of misery. Last weekend, Sean and I visited Brian and Jodi in their new home in Charlotte. During the evening, Jodi and I were talking about the birth of her daughter. The couple’s blog reads, “In what can only be described as ‘very fast’, Jodi had to push only 8 times across 3 contractions before Alison came out.” Jodi’s account confirmed that as she described how quick and easy the actual act of pushing and delivery went. When she was done, she said (paraphrased):

It felt like it should have been harder. It feels like it didn’t really happen, you know?”

I’ve never given birth, but I knew exactly what she meant!

November 12, 2006 at 1:42 am 1 comment

Great Smokey Mountains: Quick Recap

This weekend, I traveled to Great Smokey Mountain National Park with Soleless Red and Spit McCoy (aka Kipp and Mike).  We have just started to scratch the surface with all the pictures from this trip, but here is a quick recap (not proofread):

A Tale of Two Blue Cranes
On Friday, we got stuck in hideous traffic in Pigeon Forge.  We were driving in two cars which quickly got seperated in all the traffic and confusion.  At one point, we were coordinating on cells phones trying to figure out who was where. 

“What do you see?” Mike asked. 

Kipp described a neon blue crane that was spinning around.

“Oh you’re behind us,” Mike said, “We passed that a while ago.”

It was a reasonable conclusion– I think most cities would be able to sustain just one glowing blue crane business.  But not in Pigeon Forge– it apparently needed TWO such neon structures.  It turns out Kipp was ahead of us…at the blue crane we had yet to see.

I was also amused that Pigeon Forge had a Jamboree, a Jubilee and a Hoe Down all within the same city block.

Rainbow Falls
On Saturday, we woke up at 5:30 AM and headed out to hit the trails!  It was still dark when we were filling out the registration at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  We parked Kipp’s car up at Newfound Gap and then drove back down to the Rainbow Falls Trailhead.  We loaded up all our backpacking gear and I got to do my very first hike with a full pack (special thanks for Carolyn who lent me her pack!). 

Sometimes carrying two retractable leashes and the water for myself and two dogs feels heavy– but it certainly did not compare to my pack on Saturday!  I had some difficulty putting the pack on by myself and often after a break, I needed my companions to assist loading me back up.  I read once about an experiment where scientists put a crab inside a clear jar in an octopus’s tank and they would time how long it took the octopus to figure out how to unscrew the lid of the jar to get to the crab.  I believe part of the experiment was they let the subject octopus watch another octopus figure out how to get the crab.  The subject octopus then immediately knew what it needed to do when it was presented with the same problem.  The octopus’s ability to learn through example was not lost through evolution.  During one of our breaks, I noticed Mike unloaded his pack on a tall rock.  When it was time to suit back up for action, he merely sat down on the rock, snapped on all the buckles and stood back up.  I started using that technique and suddenly I was empowered to get my pack on without assistance.

Kipp help me find my way around the pack as well.  At first, I found myself with quick a bit of sensation in my shoulders.  Kipp did some targeted strap yanking– he loosened my shoulder straps and tightened the waist.  That simple gesture shifted more of the weight to my hips which I found vastly more comfortable.

The first mile was not the steepest, but it was the most difficult for me and during that difficult period– I did have my hiking doubts that I would make the trek (Refer to “People Get Held Back by the Voices Inside Them“).  However, after that first mile, I think I adjusted to the extra weight or perhaps just built up a little bit of confidence.  From there on, it was smooth sailing.

Well, smooth sailing for me.  Poor Mike had thought he had just gotten over a cold, but discovered that the illness had returned in full force.   By the time we reached Rainbow Falls, it was apparent the cold was having an effect.  We were able to travel an estimated 1.5 miles further, before Mike had to Summon the Strength to Wuss Out.  The decision was difficult, but in the end, our group definitely made the right call.  After carrying heavy packs 4 miles and up a 2000 foot ascent, we turned back and returned to the car.

It was still a wonderful outing with great fall views and an amazing collection of mushrooms!

Soleless Red and Black Bears
Turning back had some fringe benefits.  On our way down, the sole of Kipp’s right shoe came off.  We tried securing it back on with rope– but alas, that sole wanted nothing to do with Kipp.  As a result, he descended the rest of the trail with significantly more awareness of the rocks on the trail.

Then when we were driving back to Gatlinburg, we came across a mini traffic jam on Cherokee Orchard Road.  Ultimately it was rubberneckers– but it was rubberneckers I can forgive— they were looking at a female black bear and her cub in a tree!  Our crew pulled over and I was able to see my very first live black bear (I saw a dead one with Meredith near Wind Rocks)!  I was extremely surprised at how high the two bears were and even more surprised at how at ease they were at that height.  The mother balanced on a branch to go to sleep, not at all concerned about the likes of gravity.  Soon it was brought to our attention that there were three more black bears on the ground.  I took a look and, man, there was a HUGE one out there.  I was under the impression that black bears looked like big dogs.  This one was no dog.  He was huge.  I’d prefer to not run into him when hiking alone.

Mike’s Picture of Bear on Flickr

Finally, we took our time returning to Kipp’s car and enjoyed a lot of the overlook pulloffs.  Marion’s Overlook was especially beautiful.  Looking at the valley below, the scenery didn’t even seem real.  “It feels like a painting,” Kipp said.

Appalachian Trail!
In preparation for the trip, I printed out a copy of the Smokey’s Trip Planner.  I marked a few waterfalls and in the margin of the “Favorite Destinations” page underneath “Clingman’s Dome”, I scrawled the notation “Pic by Sign”.  I was referring to the Appalachian Trail– which weaves 70 miles through the park and skirts the North Carolina-Tennesee Border.  After all the AT mileage Mike and I have done in Virginia, I wanted a picture of us at the AT in a different state.   Welp, we were able to fulfill that desire when we dropped Kipp off at Newfound Gap!

Clingman’s Dome
After dropping Kipp off, Mike and I headed off to Clingman’s Dome.  It is the highest point in Tennesee AND it is the highest point in the Appalachian Trail.  Mike and I were extremely lucky– we got to enjoy great views and we got to see first hand how quickly the Smokey’s namesake rolls in.  It was amazing to look up and see how quickly the fog moved. 

 

In my post last week I talked the importance of timing in pictures.  That message will be 100% reinforced by our Smokey pictures.  At one point, I was about to take a picture of a splendid view, but found myself out of batteries.  No problem– I had two in my pocket.  BUT– by the time I switched out the batteries and pulled the camera up again, fog already completely obscured the view.  Once we get all our pictures coordinated, Mike and I should have some good ones demonstrating the huge difference just a couple of seconds make way up on top of Ole Smokey.

On our way up, I overheard our youngest generation marvel at the fog.  A very young boy coming down the path, told his parents, “We was in the clouds!” 

Chimney Tops
This morning, Mike and I took a short but steep hike up to Chimney Tops.  It was an awesome hike with a great rock formation you can climb up for a view.  Mike made it to the top of the rocks very easily.  I struggled though–  It took me three tries to find a viable route to get up to the top.  How did I finally find the way?  Just like the octopus and the crab and my backpack loading lesson– I learned by copying.  I copied the route of a family of three!  The view at the top was awesome.  On one side we could see a clear sky and fall colors and on the other side we could see fog.  Our final hike in the Smokey’s was a great summary of the trip– fall colors and fog.

Impressions of Gatlinburg
Don’t get me wrong, I do think Gatlinburg is picturesque.  But my overall impression is damaged significantly by the parking and traffic situation.  Quite simply– it’s horrible.  It is difficult to admire the quaintness of a mountain city, when you’re constantly on the lookout for a barrage of pedestrains and lit brakelights… or when you are trying to plan your route three steps ahead to make sure you can make the turn you need to make or actually find a parking spot.

Mike and I counted at least 8 seperate businesses that focused on Old Time Photos– five of which concentrated within a couple of blocks.  Often there were two such businesses right across the street from each other (very much like Lewis Black’s “Starbucks across the street from a Starbuck’s” bit), or just a couple of doors from each other!  I was surprised by Pigeon Forge’s two blue cranes, but seriously can there really be that much demand for fake western photos?!?!

How about getting rid of one or two of those establishments and putting in…actual parking.  Call me crazy, but people who are coming to the mountains to “rough it” can probably make due with just six Old Time Photo venues.

October 8, 2006 at 11:45 pm 2 comments

Worlds Collide at Larry’s Tailgate!

One thing I enjoy about weddings (besides dancing and the cake, of course) is the “worlds collide” effect. A number of people who all know the bride and groom in different contexts convene together for a common celebration. I like to see extended family and friends mingling together, sharing their memories and antedotes.

This weekend even though Virginia Tech’s bout with Northeastern did not promise to be a nailbiter, it still managed to draw a collision of worlds at Larry’s house. Many different aspects of my life were represented by the people in attendence:

  • My Blacksburg/Tailgate Life – All the normal tailgating people were in attendence. Larry, Ann, Penn, Gwyn, Andy, Bill, Sean, Keith, Jonathan Couch and even new father Brian Vandervort made a surprise appearence!
  • My Hiking Life – My reigning Hiking Buddy, Mike E, was present and he got to converse with my original hiking partner– Tony Airaghi.
  • My Married Life – Both of Sean’s brothers and their significant others came down for the event. That meant 66.66% of my brothers-in-law were in attendence (Carolyn‘s husband, Clint, was the only one missing from this brother-in-law reunion).
  • My QualTrax Life – ZJ Palasz, one of our QualTrax programmers, came in from Virginia Beach with his girlfriend to join our festivities.
  • My NOVA/Camping/Skiing Life – Kipp and Stacy came down for the event. On Friday night I found out that Shannon, Christian, Beth, Wayne and Shehab were going to be in town as well. I extended an invitation and all seven of these individuals from Northern Virginia came to Larry’s tailgate …and all seven of them got to witness a rare “Tipsy Vicky”.

I think these two pictures are a solid representation of the worlds colliding. The first one depicts some of the usual crowd– Me, Larry and Lindsay. The second one is the same shot— only this time, Kipp has made his way into the scene!

And here comes NOVA bursting in! 🙂

More pictures from the Virginia Tech vs. Northeastern Tailgate are available on my website.

September 4, 2006 at 11:36 am 1 comment

Well Rounded Weekend

One of my contract work projects recently went live. Without that ongoing obligation, I had something that resembled free time! I got a number of things done:

  1. I started a cleaning effort of our house– knocking out two bathrooms, mopping the kitchen floor and preparing the carpets to be shampooed later in the week (that’s a fancy phrase for “vaccuumed”).
  2. I caught up on some letters. Kicking off that effort– a lengthy letter to my cousin Adam who recently arrived in Iraq. Another cousin, Allison, also made my list.
  3. Installed new showerheads in two bathrooms.
  4. Replaced a broken toilet seat… unfortunately, I was under the impression our toilet was white. Once home, it was painfully clear the the toilet is in fact beige. Regardless of color, the white toilet seat is slightly more presentable than a toilet seat with a big ole crack in it.
  5. Contract work — I didn’t escape it all, but my obligations were such that I only had to work in the evenings!

And finally– Hiking! I didn’t go on the 20 mile hike (and wouldn’t you know it– the other hiker reported seeing 4 black bears), but my shin and I were able to sneak in a 4.6 mile hike this afternoon with Jimmie, Henry and Mike E. We went down the War Spur Trail to the AT Connector Trail to the AT and then to Wind Rocks. Not a toughie– but a wonderful outing.

Some pictures:

(Jimmie enjoying the view at Wind Rocks)


(Mike E and I have hiked hundreds of miles together, but this is the very first picture that features both of us.)

The rest of the pictures of our War Spur-Wind Rocks hike are on my website.

August 27, 2006 at 10:26 pm 1 comment

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