Monday, July 27, 2009

PB - the stache

I'm having a hard time writing this one. The man was larger than life. Larger than words. He was my friend, my mentor, my partner in crime. We laughed together, cried together. The man gave real honest to God bear hugs. He also kicked my ass. He was a wild man. He was a tender heart. He was a husband, and just about the greatest dad I ever witnessed (and not just to his kids). He was Paul Barclay, one in a bazillion. And he died on July 11, 2009. I was there. I didn't make it in time, but I was given the honor of being there. He was gone. I told him I loved him, that his wife loved him, that my life and the lives of a thousand others will never be the same because of him. (For those of us who knew him, we know a thousand is an understatement.) It was his heart that broke. I know this is not medically accurate, but a heart as big as Paul's was bound to break at some point. As it says in the Good Book, Paul had eternity in his heart. Now, he is brand new in the eternal life to come.

I decided in his honor to grow a mustache. I started growing it the day of the funeral. John, his son, inspired me. He's growing one too. Others are as well. My personal plan was that I'd sort of grow out the beard a bit and then shave it down. It's been a week, so I shaved it down yesterday. Oh man. It looks like I have a woolly worm Scotch taped to my lip. It's been on my face one day, and I can already tell this is going to be one difficult tribute to live with. But gosh darn it, I'm going to do it. At least another week. I'm fine as long as I don't look in the mirror. 

A-Ro is 3!

Anna Rose turned 3 this month. Wow! 3 whole years. Now that's something to celebrate. It was her idea to have a party. "So that my friends can bring me presents," she explained. 3 years and she has it all figured out! We asked her to come up with a list of whom she would like to invite. Grammy, Pop Pop, Lucy... (she got the big present givers out of the way first)... Mommy, Daddy, Winnie, David... Mac, Daisy, Hannah, Mary Douglas, Kerith, Evy, Harper, Barnes, Wesley (all below but for Barnes and Mac who were out of town). We asked her what she wanted. "A hippopotamus," she said. "What color?" "Purple." (Like I said, she got this birthday thing figured out.)  
We had a blast. I particularly love this sequence. (I did not particularly enjoy it in the moment, but the faces, especially A-Ro's, are priceless!)

By the look on A-Ro below, I believe we had a pretty stinking satisfied birthday girl...
Photo shop in David and we got ourselves a Christmas Card!
Daddy and daughter sharing some cake. (I use the word share in the broadest of meanings. We shared in that I fed and she ate. The girl didn't save me one bite!)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Blue Ridge Bike Challenge

I'm having a hard time deciding on a tone for this entry. Part of me feels compelled to write in a "this was hard, I can't believe I did it" voice. Another part of me feels led to take on a "this was so awesome you must add this trip to your bucket list" attitude. I have this strange mix of humility and pride about this thing. There were moments when I was terrified, exhausted, humiliated, and in pain. There were other moments when you could not wipe the smile off my face with a twenty-five pound eraser. It was just one of those trips: Two days, two bikes, four legs, 172 miles and over 15,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.
So I had this idea. I've been wanting to do something with my friend Rob Paynter, who is a pediatrician despite what his last name might imply. He works beside my wife at Forsyth Pediatrics. We have become friends over the last few years. He is a biker. And if you want to meet him in his element, it is best if you go there via pedals.

I like to bike. It's just I tend to partake in activities that require less gear. Everything bikish I own has been either given, borrowed, or stolen. I'm not kidding. Bike: Longterm Loan. Helmet: Borrowed. Glasses: Given (they're for carpentry). Shirt: Borrowed. Shorts: Stolen. Underwear: None (are you supposed to wear underwear?). Socks: Stolen. Shoes: Given. All the same, I gathered the pieces to look the part. I took this picture in the Lynn Cove Visitor Center bathroom. I looked so good I couldn't help it...ha!...not!

The point is I had this great/not-so-well-planned idea to bike a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway with him. According to plan, Rob jumped at the idea. Immediately, I felt less secure.

I mean, I knew I would be out of my league, but as I started planning I began to realize that I might not be able to do it. I didn't fully realize (and truly did not comprehend until I did it) that the Blue Ridge Parkway is never flat.

It really isn't. I think in the 172 miles there were maybe two portions that were flat for more than a mile. I'm not kidding. You are going up or down the entire time. (And the downs go down so fast, it really feels like you are going up the entire time).

As the date got closer and closer, I got more nervous. One night, I decided to plot the route, just to get my head around it. I bought some graph paper and pulled out this Blue Ridge hiking book we happen to own, and I started placing dots everywhere there was a mile marker and elevation note. It was terrifying. Our portion of the route just went up, up, and up. In fact, the first 18 miles were only up. From Asheville (2,400 ft) to Mount Mitchell (5,700 ft) (the highest point east of the Mississippi). So getting my head around it wasn't helping.

So I decided to train. I had two weeks. That first week I woke up every day between 5:30 and 6:00 and rode. In seven days I put in 170 miles. That was pretty good, I thought. The most I did at once was 35. That was probably not good, I thought. What is good, I ask you? The next week I biked twice for fear of over doing it.
June 26, the logistics began. I drove to Cumberland Knob (our destination) with John "I'll take World History for 500, Alex" Clevenger. We dropped off my car. Drove back. Got Rob. Our friend Allison "My second home is a tent" Davis (who was going that way (to a lakehouse) anyway) took us to Asheville. (See before picture above) We stayed with Russell "Not related to the famous outdoorsman" and Priscilla "Used to be Nutt" Muir friday night. P-Nutt escorted us to the parkway. We unloaded (Ned, literally, in the woods). Said our good-byes. And Rob and I were off.

Uphill we went. This photo was taken at Craggy Gardens. We entered the cloud about 5,000 ft. We are about 5,600 ft at the taking of this picture. I am smiling. Two minutes later, we are careening down the mountain in less than 20 ft visibility on wet pavement. My hands were throbbing from squeezing the brakes so hard. I was not smiling.

Fortunately, once we got to Mount Mitchell, the clouds parted and it was sunny skies there on out. We flew. My smile was back. Rob had us clocked at over 45 mph at one point. He could have gone faster. I could not have gone slower. (I tried; it felt safer to fly.) The downhill was short-enjoyed. Before I knew it we were slogging it up another behemoth. It was one after another after another after another all day.

The crux of day one was between mile marker 324 and 321 (mile 60 into our trip). It was three miles and 1,400 feet of elevation to Chestoa View. It slaughtered me. We took this picture at the point I made us stop to take a break.
We took another break about 1 mile later. No view this time. I just couldn't go any further. I really couldn't. I was too tired to even unclip my left foot, which is why I fell, got this cut you see here. Pretty sweet, huh. I was going about -1 mph when I got it. Ha!

Rob was a great sport. I'm sure at any moment, at every moment, he could have smoked me. At least gotten frustrated for the pace I was making us take. I asked Rob later that evening (we had taken a taxi (my idea) into Blowing Rock for dinner) if he had gotten tired at any point. He said, "No." That made me feel a ton better.

As we sat down to Mellow Mushroom, I dubbed him "Oak Legs." I dubbed my own "Weeping Willows." We talked, laughed, even cried as we ate about the equivalent of our body weights in beer and pizza. We walked home. I went to bed. It was 8:30 pm.

The next day was more of the same. Up, down, Up, down, Up....But it wasn't as difficult and not as surprising. Only 77 miles and 5,000 something feet of elevation gain. (I can't believe I just wrote only.) We took this shot as we left Ashe County. The thing about the Blue ridge Parkway is it's so stinking beautiful. And combining the beauty with difficulty was downright magical. I'm having a hard time putting it into words. I guess, when it's hard, you just appreciate the beauty more. At the same time, I was also aware of how much I was missing - the sweat being in my eyes, my heart squeezing the insides of my chest cavity, my lungs burning - I'm sure I rode right on by things, if I knew they were there, I would have wanted to stop and see. There was also the knowledge that starting hurt so bad after stopping. And I was hurting already.

All in all it was an incredible two days, even for an infrequent biker like me. A trip I will never forget. One that I will most definitely do again. What do you say? Blue Ridge in? Check out our new logo, inspired by my greasy weeping willows!
(No matter how hard I try, I always seem to get grease on me. This perfect chain print was not done on purpose and occurred two seconds after we arrived at Cumberland Knob.)