An adventurous week–I didn’t even ride a bike–Part 3

This is the last part of our adventurous week.  We were visiting with our niece, Dina, in Myrtle Beach on Thursday and Friday when I received a text from our friend and fellow biker, Stacy Mark.  I first met Stacy on my cross-country ride in 2013.  I was doing the Northern Route and at one point it came close to where Stacy lived.  We got a call from her at that time and after some discussion she asked if it would be alright for she and her husband to join me in riding part of the Route.  Naturally, I said “of course”.  We met up at a specific point on the trail and Stacy and her husband, Rocky, rode with us for a couple of days.  So it had been almost seven years since I had seen her.  She was following my current blog and thought I’d be interested in meeting up with her as she was doing a challenging ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We agreed to meet somewhere on the Parkway when Georgie and I returned home from Myrtle Beach.  On November 1st Stacy texted me that most of the Parkway was closed due to the weather.  She was looking at biking about 450 miles on the Parkway starting near Cherokee, NC, and finishing in Charlottesville, Virginia.   She planned on camping out at night and grabbing food when she could.   A very brave girl indeed since she was riding without support, the weather was not good, and the Blue Ridge Parkway has a lot of hills!  She was also a little concerned about sleeping out in the woods because of bears.  We later took her to buy an air horn that would scare a herd of bears away.

When Georgie and I got home on Monday, Stacy had already been riding for a day or two.  We drove to Asheville and caught the Parkway and headed north.  Stacy texted us that she had just passed Mile 389 north of Pisgah.  We were 20 miles or so south of there so we sped up hoping to meet her as soon as possible.  The weather was good at this point but getting windy–not a good thing for a biker.  We were at Mile 375 when we came around a curve and lo and behold there was a biker in front of us struggling to get up the next hill to the Overlook Turnout at Mile 370.  It was Stacy!  We parked at the Overlook and waited for her to climb the remaining short distance.

She was finding the ride difficult due to the windy weather and the constant hill climbs.  We knew from the weather report that it was going to be very cold that night on the Parkway.  We tried to find a good shelter spot for her but could not find one in the next several miles ahead.  So we asked Stacy if she would like to spend a quiet night at our house and enjoy some good food at a local restaurant.  She agreed that would be the high point of her day!

The next morning we drove her back to Mile 370 where she took her bike and all her gear out of the back of our car. Here is the scene at the Overlook.

                      

Stacy, her bike and 40 lbs of gear.  Ready to go at Mile 370.  Off she goes to Charlottesville.

She did 63 miles that day.  The next day she did 80 miles and stopped at Mile 230.  On Thursday Stacy reported to me that she did 85 mile and was in the rain for 3 hours.  On Friday night I received a text that she had finished the ride and was staying with friends.  I wrote her back a text of congratulations and acknowledged that she had just accomplish an amazing feat.  I also told her that this accomplishment was going to make it very hard to out-brag her.

I have known a lot of bikers who have accomplish some amazing things.  I would have to put Stacy at the top with those who have done the MOST AMAZING THINGS!

Note: Stacy was going north on the Parkway so the Mile # decline the farther she rode.  Thus you will see the mile markers go from 370 to 230 etc.

 

 

 

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An adventurous week–I didn’t even ride a bike #2

So before I continue to Part 2 of our adventurous week, I need to correct some things in Part 1.  This morning Georgie read the blog from yesterday and found a few errors.  Apparently the “Moon” was in a square in Durham not Raleigh.  Also Durham is the “Bull City” not Raleigh.  There may have been a few others but these needed correcting.  Oh! and we also visited Duke University where we toured their amazing chapel.  This chapel holds over 1,500 people and was architecturally beautiful.  As you can see from the pictures, it was a very large structure appointed with stained glass throughout.  In fact, we were told that the many verses of the bible were portrayed in the stained glass.  There was also two organs with a huge pipe assembly at the entrance to the chapel.  All in all it was quite something to see.

 

         

Now its on to Myrtle Beach to see my niece, Dina, and her husband, Brian.  They recently purchased a new house there after moving from California.  It was a very nice house on a canal.  Well appointed on the inside and the yard looked great.  They had a pool but Dina doesn’t swim.  Probably will put gold fish in it.

The next day Dina and Brian took us to the seashore in the area known as the Boardwalk.  Here we rode the largest ferris wheel I have ever seen.  It was call the “Sky Wheel”.  What a view we had from the top.  We could see for miles up and down the shore line.  We went around five times in this big wheel.  Then we walked the Boardwalk and came across this house which looked a little odd.  It was tilted significantly to one side.  When we went in everything was on a tilt.  It was the fun house of fun houses.  We didn’t go through the whole house, the first floor was enough for all of us.

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The next day we went for a tour of the city’s fantastic aquarium.  It was uniquely structured to give you the best view of swimming sharks and the fish living in the same water.  It was very intriguing and Georgie and Dina just had to be in the jaws of a shark.

         

This was quite an amazing aquarium.  It was one of the unique attractions you can find in Myrtle Beach.  This is a town worth visiting for sure.

This was Part 2 of our trip.  It was now time to head home to a unique encounter in Part 3.

Join us on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An adventurous week–and I didn’t even ride a bike.

The adventure started October 28 with a long drive to Raleigh/Durham.  We were meeting our friends there who composed our Anniversary Group.  Sixteen years ago these four couples were at a party.  We got to talking about anniversaries and it didn’t take long to learn that we were all married in the same month–the month of August.  Different wedding dates and years but all August weddings.  As I said, that was 16 years ago and now for the last 15 years we have meeting annually some place and spent three exciting days together visiting, exploring the sites and eating.

The four couples include Mike and Diane Butler, Larry and Nancy McGaughy, Jerry and Jeannie Harbaugh and Mike and Georgie Farmer.  At one time these were all Kenmure residents, but now the Butlers and Harbaughs have relocated.  We still always look forward to getting together each year and sharing stories, laughter and adventure.

This year it was our turn to plan the trip.  Georgie picked Raleigh/Durham.  She found a nice B&B there and it appeared that there were several attractions that we would all be interested in.  The 264 mile drive to Raleigh on October 28 was long.  We planned on meeting the others at noon for lunch and we did.  We then began the tour at the State Capitol building.  The boys posed in front of a statue of three president, one on horse back.  The girls also made the pose and the tour was on.

        

We then went to check out the Governors’s office but he wasn’t there.  And the congress was gone too.  Didn’t they know we were coming to see them?  Seriously!!!

       

As we toured around the downtown area, we saw something unusual in one of the town squares.  It was the MOON!!!!  Yes, an exact replica of the moon placed in the square to celebrate an upcoming event in the city.  As you can see, it was big.                   .

At another point in town we saw a bronze bull.  Apparently, Raleigh is known as the “BULL” Town.  Mike Butler could not resist sniffing and kissing the bull.  And we all gather around the Bull for a group picture.

                 

Now it is lunch time.  We went to a nice restaurant with great food.  And I meet a pink penguin who was very nice but didn’t talk much.

      

Continuing our tour we then visited a very historical place in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It was known as the Bennett farm and in this place General Joseph Johston, Commander of the Confederate Army, and Major General W.T. Sherman, Commanding the U.S. Army, met to sign the surrender terms that ended the Civil War.  The date was April 26, 1865.

     

The two pictures above represent the actual table on which both men signed this historic document and the farm house where the signing took place.   The photo below is a copy of the document they both signed to end the war.  (Sorry about the flash).  And the structure outside where we were all standing is a UNITY memorial provided by the president of the United States to commemorate the event.  Very toughing place.

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On our last night we had a dinner party for the three people celebrating birthdays in October.  Georgie arranged for a cake and we had a few decorations to enjoy the party.  The funniest thing during our whole adventure trip, was when Mike Butler got up and starting singing the song “Chantilly Lace”.  It was a riot and everyone was singing along.

   

So that was the first three days of our week long adventure.  Next I will be telling you about the sites we saw when we left Durham/Raleigh and traveled to my niece’s home in Myrtle Beach.  After that I will tell you the amazing story of Stacy, who rode with me on my cross country ride in 2013 and who contacted me when we got home on this last Monday.  She said that she had decided to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway from near Asheville to Charlottesville.  This was a ride of about 450 miles without support.  I’ll tell you about this in two days.  Stay tuned.

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Chapter 7–The Adventure is over and life is better.

This was a great adventure.  We laughed, we cried a little, we ached, we succeeded, we saw each other overcome physical and mental odds, we killed a black fly.  (Yeah, that fly was really bugging us in camp for a couple of days, so we took him out.)

During this adventure there were not fathers and sons or friends.  There were just three men pulling together to help each other be successful and reach their goal.  The climbs were a challenge.  The friendship and caring for each other was the great result.

Rob is a very special person.  He loves nature and respects it dearly.  “Dad, step on the rocks or the dirt so you don’t crush the plant growth.”  As I said before, the mountains seem to be his play ground.  He is so at home there and becoming so knowledgeable.  At the Climbers Camp guys that had been climbing for years were asking Rob for advise on where and how to climb.  Sometimes the jargon was so foreign I needed a translator to understand what was being said.

Rob is committed to climbing as much as I’m committed to breathing.  I’m not sure I could ask him to be more dedicated to something other than climbing.  I’m also not sure where it all leads.  By the time he is 30 he will probably have climbed most of the major peaks in this country and done many of the difficult rock climbing routes as well.  Does it matter that he will not be rich monetarily?  Well, when I see the joy in his face when he makes a new summit that question is easily answered.

And if nothing else, he has helped his father enjoy the adventure as well.  In the end, father and son are both doing quite well.

Mike Farmer, July 24, 1994

Epilogue

Rob did continue to do his adventures.  They changed as time went on.  And in his early 30’s he bought his own business and maintained it successfully for the next 17 years.  Now he is choosing to retire from that career and seek new adventures.  On the weekends he and his son, Coletrane, take the truck into the mountains of Western North Carolina and drive the many rugged trail through the beautiful natural forests.  He is teaching Coletrane to love nature and adventure as well.

As a result of that 1994 trip, I have gone on to climb mountains in the Himalaya, South America and in the US as well.  My special adventure has become biking and I have biked across the US coast to coast twice.  Last time at the age of 70.  I have also biked in some 25 countries around the world.

So what prompted me to do these adventures?  Clearly it was the joy of that climb in 1994 with Rob and Jim that let me experience the rewards of these physical endeavors.  As a father, I owe Rob a lot for showing me the way to truly enjoy the life that I have been given.  KEEP UP THE ADVENTURE.


 

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CHAPTER 6—GUY HUGS

It’s funny how when you really care about someone and who they are and what you’ve accomplished together, hugs are a good way of expressing that care.

When we reached the summit of Gannett, Jim was the first to come over and give me a big hug of congratulations and many words of encouragement.  Rob did the same thing.  It was a joyous moment.  Jim, however, had lost his dad about two years earlier and the loss was still with him.  I hope that in some way I might have been his surrogate father for that summit and that he gave me what he had long to give his father at the top of a mountain.

Again, when we reached the lower saddle of the Grand, we all embraced warmly before Rob and Jim set off for the summit.  There is nothing guaranteed in mountaineering.  A slip, a mistake by you or someone else, can be fatal at high altitudes.  The send off hugs can be a bit tearful when you think for a fleeting moment that the person may not return.

At the airport Rob and Jim dropped me off and were anxious to get on the road.  I gave each a big hug and it was returned warmly.  I think facing an element of danger together and coming out the other side safely, creates a unique bond that can’t help but bring you closer together.

Hugs are good.  They say so much without saying a word.

 

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Chapter 5–Climbing Support

Any successful summit attempt is only reached with adequate preparation and a lot of support and encouragement.  We had something a little special on this trip.  My friends, the Cases, gave me a medal of the Lady of Majorica to wear.  I was honored and knew it was a strong force that would protect us and give us strength.

One night I told Jim about getting the medal.  I said you may not believe in its powers or religious significance, but I think it will keep us save.  He said “Well, actually I do believe in anything like that, that a person feels has the energy to protect.”  As it turned out going up to the Gannett Summit and later up Dinwoody Pass, I called on the strength of the Lady many times, asking Blessed Mary’s help to get me up the mountain, to calm whatever fear I had, and to keep our team safe.

Our prayers must have been answered cause we had a very safe and successful trip.  Thanks Cases.

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Chapter 4–Fathers can be Cool

Today was our last day together.  Rob and I were walking to meet Barb and Jim for breakfast.  I gave Rob some money for the trip back and some extra to take Jim and his girlfriend and Jenny to dinner.  But Rob protested saying that he really only needed $20 and that I had been far too generous on this trip already.  He said that he and Jim were both feeling a little bad about all the good meals and the other things that I had bought for all of us during the trip.

I told him not to worry.  This trip was special and I don’t usually spend money on him during the course of the year.  He said “Dad, my friends that have met you think you are really cool.  Before I left Missoula some of my friends who haven’t met you were asking me who was going on this trip with me.  When I told them I was going to spend a week and a half with my Dad and Jim, they said “With your Dad?  Why would you want to spend all that time with your Dad?”  I told them “No, he’s cool.  It’s really going to be fun.  I’m really looking forward to it.”

Then he said “Dad, most of my friends don’t have the kind of parents that they would want to spend two days with much less a week and half.  And Dad, Jim thinks you’re cool too.”

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Chapter 3–Fairness

Jim and I were waiting for Rob one day and were engaged in conversation about him.  Jim said “There’s something about Rob that I really admire.  He is totally fair and honest with anyone he deals with.  No matter who comes into his shop, whether its a fellow climber, a stranger or a drunk off the street, Rob will always treat them with the same amount of respect and honesty that he would any of his good friends.  I really admire him for that and I guess its why we get along so well.”

Obviously as a father this is a very special compliment for me as well as for my son.  I’m proud of Rob for being “fair” with anyone he meets.

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The Leader’s Decision

Chapter 2

As you recall from yesterday’s report, we were traveling in Rob’s van and enjoying all the comforts it had to offer–RIGHT.  We finally made it to our base camp and were preparing to climb.

Gannett Mountain is 13,809 feet high and is located in the state of Wyoming in the Wind River Range.  It was first summited in 1922.  While it is about 500 feet lower than Mt. Rainier it is glacieral and thus calls for additional climbing gear in order to reach the summit.  Ice axes, crampons and rope are necessities.

Walking up to Gannett base camp and later summitting and returning to the camp, I managed to render my left foot inoperable.  A heel blister had formed about the size of a half dollar.  Worse still I had allowed the punishment of that injured heal to go on so long that the bone was severely bruised to the point that a boot could not even be placed on my foot.

When we got to the Tetons, I had to pass on the initial day’s climb because of the damage inflected on the heel.  Rob and Jim agreed to hold off climbing the GRAND TETON (13,776 FEET) until Friday in hopes that the bone would heal sufficiently.  Unfortunately, Thursday night after heavy bandaging was applied to the heel, it was still very sensitive to a boot.

Rob was very concerned and when we walked outside at about 10:30 pm to test the wound, he confronted me with the question of what to do tomorrow.  We were scheduled to meet Barb at 4am at the Trailhead to the GRAND.  Rob needed to make a decision tonight as to my condition and the objective the team would go for the next day.  This is always a pre-climb requesite for the team and the team leader must decide.  The conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I know you want to make that summit badly tomorrow.  But I’m concerned about the condition of your foot.  It’s had me worried all day and we need to talk about it.”

“Okay Rob, lets talk.”

“Dad, I know how badly you want to do this.  I’m concerned about what you might do to your foot.  It may cause more damage and it may not be worth it to continue.  The mountain will always be there but your foot maybe severly damaged if you’re not careful.  I’m also concerned about the safety of the rest of the team.  It’s my responsibility to get us up and down as safely as possible.  If you fall behind, you may jeopardize all of us. If you can’t keep up you may be in jeopardy.”

We both stood there for a few minutes saying nothing.  The moon was out in full and we both stood looking not at each other but up at the GRAND that seemed like it was less than a mile away.

Finally Rob said “I know how badly you want to do this but I think you should decide now not to go to the summit.  You should go up with us but no further than the Lower Saddle at 11,300 feet.  From there you can get back down the trail safely by yourself.”

We were both still looking at the GRAND—not at each other.  When I did look over at Rob he was wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.  This was a tough request but he was the team leader and he had to consider the good of the team.  The conversation was more emotional than I can really describe.  But I finally told him that I would agree to go no further than the Lower Saddle or as far as I could get below the Lower Saddle.

Rob had great leadership skills and he doesn’t even realize it.   He had lead every climb with skill and decisiveness.  The rest of the team always relied on his judgement in any situation.  He knows when there is time to make tough decisions even when it’s your father that is involved.  For me it was a sad moment because I had waited several days of inactivity to have a shot at the GRAND.  But I was also proud of the way Rob handled it.  I’m sure if he were asked to give his version he’d say truthfully it was “no big thing”.

But standing there in the full moon with the GRAND at our feet and watching him wipe those tears away, I know it was a struggle for him.  I kept to my promise and stopped at the Lower Saddle.  To make up for it though I moved quickly up the trail.  Normally, the guided group reached the Lower Saddle in 6 hours.  Rob reached the Lower Saddle in 3 hours and I was not far behind at 3 hours and 40 minutes–bad foot and all.  In the end I felt good about this.  I also felt it was the right decision to not go further.  Once at the Lower Saddle, I still had at least a 3 hour hike back to the trailhead.  To go another 6-7 hours to the summit would have been torture on my foot.

The mountain will be there next time and I’ll summit then.  This time it was right to listen to the team leader, my son.  By the way, Rob, Jim and Barb made the summit at 2pm July 22, 1994.  Their third summit of a major mountain in the U.S. in less than a week.  The three were Gannett, Teewinot and the GRAND.

LIFE IS GOOD!

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Climbing the Mountain of Emotion

The following story will be much different than most of my biking stories.  This story took place in the summer of 1994 when my son Rob and I were attempting to climb some big mountains in the western United States.  The most interesting thing for me was the fact that “the son became the father and the father became the son”.  In other words, Rob knew what he was doing to have a successful mountain climb and I had only practice climbing up the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Not exactly a tough test.  So I decide to listen to Rob and do what he thought was best even if I thought I had a better idea.  By the way, at the time Rob was 25 years old and I was 51.  I hope you enjoy this story.  It will be in several parts so bear with me for the next few days.


Part 1–The Van

Part of climbing with Rob is living in his world.  On the road, his world is his van.  It is a 1970 VW Camper Van that shows all the battle scars of the 1000’s of unknown miles it had traveled.

A father’s patience upon entering this world, begins by suppressing any desire to bring order to the chaos that you have just entered.  It is the twilight zone gone crazy. Here is a description from the eyes of a passenger (me) riding in the back seat of the chaos.

Starting at the dash there are a collection of Reggae music tapes strewn across the dash.  I don’t know how many but some have the tape totally unraveled, some are in plastic cases and others are out.  There are some well worn socks keeping the tapes company.  Periodically a tin of chewing tobacco will appear on the dash.  There are various maps of regions either climbed or to be climbed.  Bugs of various species sit endlessly on the windshield and survey the maps below them.

The flight controls for this vehicle are also unique.  Of course, nothing works as the manufacturer’s designer had envisioned it to work.  First, in order to start the car you use no key.  There is a switch under the steering column that activates the engine’s inner workings.  The car is thus rarely locked.  No key after all.

The floor and front seat are a collage of materials from previous excursions to unknown places.  Today, Jim (Rob’s friend who is traveling with us) found a business card for a trapper in Oregon.  He asked Rob if he knew him.  Rob said the card came with the vehicle which had been purchased some four years earlier.  Really kept it clean, huh?

Watching Rob drive the car is both hilarious and somewhat frightening.  Simultaneously, he is steering the car at 55mph, selecting and inserting a favorite Reggae tape into the tape player and peeling a banana.  Amazing.

The flight deck again is simple–too simple.  There is no rear vision mirror.  There is a cracked driver’s side mirror and the one on the passenger’s side, while intact, is tilted in such a fashion as to be useless to the driver.  The normal right lane change goes like this.

Rob says to Jim “Hey Jim, is there any one on my right side? Is it okay to move over?’

I was going to end Part 1 here but there is still more to tell you about the VAN.  If you need to go eat dinner feel free and read the rest of this after dessert.

Part 1a–The VAN

Moving to the rear living compartment you find chaos with utilities.  There is a food table.  This will normally contain food, cooking utensils, drinking bottles, maps, clothes, climbing gear, lip therapy tubs, etc.  In other words, a catch-all.  There is no edge (raised edge, that is) that will hold the contents in place.  Every major left hand turn will see most of the contents of the table hurdled to the floor of the van.  Fortunately, they don’t fall far as there is multiple climbing gear scattered all over the floor.  The most discussing aspects of this scene are the pots and pans that still contain the fragments of a meal eaten some time in the past, like days past.  The boys also like to buy their bananas very ripe–on the black side in fact.  This is fine if eaten immediately but typically they are not.  Today a very black banana was found under some gear oozing it’s life onto Rob’s road atlas.  So I asked  “Do you want to throw this out, Rob?”  “No!  We’ll eat it later.”

Above the food tray, there are two plastic milk crate type containers.  These are suspended from the roof of the van with bungie cords.  As the VAN rambles along these crates will swing to the rhythm of the road.  If watched for an extended period, it can be quite hypnotic.

There is utility in the roof on the VAN as well.  A space is available where the tent to the VAN once resided.  In this cavity there are stored three ice axes, two pair of skies and some other paraphanalia difficult to describe.  The back passenger seats convert into beds.  The reverse is also true.  The bed in the back converts into a passenger seat.  It sort of depends on the phase of the moon and how ambitious Rob is when he gets up in the morning.  Throughout the rear body there are multiple rucksacks, caches of climbing gear, soiled but always wearable tee shirts and an infinite number of single soiled socks.  Amazing.

On the whole, the van begins to grow on you after a week.  You get use to riding upright in the back seat without support and the wind hitting you from five sides.  Soon you learn to store your food wrappers or beverage containers on any open spot on the floor.  It really won’t affect the appearance of the VAN.

There are also no lights in the VAN.  So after dark, in order to find something, you usually have to use a head lamp or light a small candle or simply forget about it until morning.  The VAN is not Wayne’s World, it is Rob’s World.  A mother should never be allowed to enter into this enviornment.  She would be instantly traumatized without any hope of recovery.  When I left Rob at the airport at the end of our adventure, I embraced him warmly, thanked him for the terrific time and whispered gently,  “Clean your van, Son.”

Part 2–The Leaders Decision–will commence tomorrow.  We will be climbing Gannett.  Unfortunately I had a blister on my left foot that made climbing very difficult.  Rob and I will discuss it before we climb.

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