Monday, March 31, 2008

An AMAZING hike!

On Saturday I went on a hike that will produce stories for years to come. My good friend Rick and I had planned to hike this day several weeks ago. On Friday afternoon we realized there was a 30-50% chance of rain in the afternoon. We both decided to stay with our plans and risk getting a little wet.

We arrived and started our hike to the top of Table Rock around 9:30am. On the trail, Rick was doing a great job pointing out all the roots and stumps to me so that I wouldn't fall. The ones he failed to point out, he stumbled on. The weather was a bit cool Saturday morning, somewhere in the 50's. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. I had another shirt in my pack in case it got any colder. Rick was wearing a button up, collared, short sleeve shirt and jeans. I'm not sure who dressed him to hike in a shirt suitable for church, but he was the best dressed hiker we would see all day. The cold weather was no issue for us once we got going. In fact, we were sweating and I complained about carrying the weight of an extra shirt.

We were about thirty minutes up a two hour ascent when we first heard thunder. Not much later we saw some lighting and the sky got darker. After one especially close lightning strike, we stopped and looked around. We talked about turning back, but neither one of us was willing to be the cause of missing the goal and we pushed on. As the lightning continued to strike, one group of hikers that we had passed early on had turned back. It wasn't raining yet, but we knew it would be soon. The sky continued getting darker and the thunder louder. I didn't want to turn back, but I worried that some areas of the rock would become very slick in the rain.We wouldn't know it until we got home, but here is the message that was put out by the National Weather Service (restated on the local news):
updated 9:53 a.m. ET, Sat., March. 29, 2008
GREENVILLE, S.C. - A severe thunderstorm warning was issued just before 9:30
a.m. for parts of the Upstate. The warning area includes Transylvania County in
western North Carolina, southeastern Jackson County in western North Carolina
and northern Pickens County, northwestern Greenville County in and northeastern
Oconee County in the Upstate.
The warning is expected to expire at 10:15
a.m. Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing penny

size hail.
People in the path of this severe thunderstorm should be alert
for large hail and damaging winds.
lightning and locally heavy rain can occur with any thunderstorm. Seek shelter
away from windows and doors until the storm passes.

Although large
hail to the size of pennies is the main threat with this severe thunderstorm,
brief damaging winds could also occur.

As we passed the half way up mark, it started raining. It didn't take long to start raining very hard. Our trail turned into a small river from the water rushing down the mountain. Every step was calculated to avoid the deep puddles and slick mud. We were both soaked to the bone as we neared the summit. It had taken more than two hours of climbing and hiking in this downpour to make it.

A small pile of rocks mark the highest spot on the hill. As I approached the pile, I picked up a stone and added it to the pile.

I risked getting my camera out in the rain and snapped these two shots from the top.

The lightning and thunder had left us but the rain continued. The air turned noticeably colder and the clouds engulfed the top of the mountain. A thick fog moved in and covered the ground. I suggested we walk out along the top of the mountain. Looking back, I'm not sure why I did that because the only reason to walk out there is for the view it offers. Rick agreed and we followed the trail another half mile in the rain. On the way back to the summit area we had to hike back uphill. He didn't do it, but I am pretty sure Rick was looking to kick some mud on me for having him climb uphill one more time. We were both wore out and had several miles of down hill hiking ahead of us.
My hands were numb from the cold as we started moving down hill. The hike we had planned was a relaxing hike. We planned on enjoying the amazing scenes around us, the singing birds, and the fresh air. Instead we were focused on not slipping in the mud, we were soaking wet, tired, and shivering in the cold air.

Roughly at the half way area there is a small shelter that we agreed to stop at for lunch.
Within fifteen minutes, my entire body had become cold. Rick joked that our body temperatures were falling below a survivable level. We cut our break short so that we could keep moving and warm up. We daydreamed of being in the car with the heat running as motivation to keep going.

As we neared the end of our hike in the rain, we saw several other hikers. A father and son that looked just as unprepared as we, a couple of guys in rain gear, and two young guys in jackets. At the end of the trail, there was a family enjoying the park. The mom stood up and looked at us as we emerged from the trail. She gave us a look like we were crazy. Maybe she was just checking out Rick's nice button up, but I think it was the fact that we probably looked as if we had been up there a week.

Sitting in the car, Rick turned the heat on high. I slouched in the seat for a moment as I thought about what we had just done. Anyone else would have turned back long before reaching the top in those conditions. Most would have complained about the miserable and dangerous weather. Not Rick. We enjoyed the experience together. We had talked and laughed the whole way. Rick and I had just completed an amazing hike that we will never forget.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Incredible Adventure!

Due to lack of time, look for the full story to be posted Monday night. Here's a teaser I put together.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Over 50!

No, I'm not talking about my IQ. I'm talking about Geocaching. Guys like Rake and Roadrunner talk about finding over 200 caches. Cari has a friend that lists over 100. All of that prompted Cari to ask me how many we have logged. I went to the site and looked at our profile. "Forty six", I told her. We both hung our heads with shame. Not even to fifty yet.
Cari said she didn't even want to tell her friend our login because they might see how lame we are.

The solution was to load up some caches into my NEW (how long can I say it's new?) GPS and the next morning we all went out hunting. I took some tips from Rake on this trip. I typed up each cache in the order that the route should take. It was very organized. Stop at a cache, find it, move to the next.

As always, Geocaching will get you some good photos.
Here we are grabbing the first one of the day. It was an easy find. After we grabbed it and got back to the car a bunch of people showed up. Good timing for us.

Here's the kids trying to open your standard ammo can. It was sealed tight so it took hands and feet, and then a mom to open this one.

When we arrived at this park in Easley it looked like a really nice place. There were picnic shelters and nice trails.
Apparently they ran out of money while building the benches.

Finally, you must see this. . .
It may look like this train is going to crush that car. The fact is that as we sat at a red light, this train approached the intersection at about 1/2 mph. He then came to a complete stop. Meanwhile, the gates were down and the red light would not change. After several minutes, the gates lifted and our light turned green. The engineer hopped out and walked over to Joe's restaurant. I guess when you drive a train, you stop when YOU want to stop.

Notice that pile of RR ties on the left of the shot. There are piles all along the route from Clemson to Greenville. The RR is spending some multi millions of dollars to replace all the ties.

We made it home and I logged all our finds.
53! Now there is something to be proud of. right?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We did eggs too!

Something about Easter has everyone blogging all of a sudden. The few minutes I had to write this evening, I spent reading YOUR blogs. Some really good stuff out there. I guess I'll write tomorrow. Here's a few pictures of dying Easter eggs.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Video

Here's a short video of the Easter egg hunt we had on Sunday.

I had a horrible time with software today getting this video done. Then I started to hate putfile, the place I have always put videos in the past. I just put it on Youtube.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Consumer Alert!

I didn't win the lottery tonight. If you happen to win, I have a great speech ready to go. I could sell it to you. More importantly, I have learned that if you ever go to China Buffet in Anderson, SC, you should know that their fortune cookies are not accurate. At least not the lotto part. They just lost a customer.

I'm thinking that in ten years when I try again, if I win, I'll just pay you to go to work for me. You can pretend your me for a day. Even you, Ab!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Speech

At this point I have re-written my speech three times. I want it just right. There will be a lot of people listening, and I don't want to sound like the rednecks before me. You probably would like me to share my words here, but I can't. It needs to be a surprise. Only Cari has read it so far. She is a big part of this speech. One of the problems we have had is that she has other ideas about what we will talk about. We're still compromising on some of the language.

It's been almost ten years since we last purchased a lottery ticket. That streak ended last night. Cari and I had dinner at a China buffet and they gave us some fortune cookies with the bill. My fortune said that this is going to be a good year for me. On the other side of the message was lottery numbers. Well, if the fortune is right on, the numbers must be as well. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get our ticket.

I now have a single winning lottery ticket tacked to the board behind my desk. I'm just waiting until next week when I have to drive it down to Columbia for verification. We're going to get a limo for that trip. While I wait for the drawing to happen, I've been working on that speech I'll give. What do you wear when you win the lottery? There are a lot of details to think about when you win millions of dollars in one day. Should I start telling people at work what I really think? I'm not going to be going back after the Saturday night drawing, so if I'm going to speak my mind, now's my chance.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited about this speech. I just got a few more ideas, so I'm going to start my forth draft. Don't worry, I'll continue the blog. Maybe I'll upgrade the font.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Won't Believe It!

It's ten after five in the morning. I have about ten minutes before I leave for work and I'm already dressed and have my coffee made. I can't remember the last time this happened.
It's a strange feeling and I have Cari to thank for it. If it wasn't for her, I'd still be hitting snooze right now.

Anyway, I'm going to an out of town meeting this morning and guess what. I have my new GPS loaded up and ready to go. There is almost no chance of getting lost on this trip, even without the GPS, even for ME. I'm taking it anyway.

I'd better cut this blog short before I make myself late for work. Imagine that I get up and get ready with plenty of time to spare and then blog until I'm late. Hmph.

Have a good day.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fun with canvas!

One of the sites I order prints from also offers prints on canvas. I looked at their pricing and it was a bit more than I was willing to spend just to try something new. Cari and I talked about it for a few minutes and then she came down stairs with a pad of canvas paper she uses in her art sometimes.

I trimmed up a piece to fit the printer and selected my test shot. I had to guess on the print settings before I printed my 4x6. It came out very good I thought.

I dug around in the closet and found an empty frame. A 5x7 wooden frame. I printed a 5x7 of the shot. This time it came out with several smudges. The paper was extremely sensitive to the oils on my fingers. The smudges added to the quality of the that type of print, but Cari liked a different frame better. The new frame is an 8x10.

One more sheet of paper and one more run through the printer. This time I used a towl to hold the page before printing. Here's what I got:
The frame I have is about the same color as the basket. I took the glass out of the frame and will display it with no glass. I am not sure that this photo of my print out does justice to the texture the canvas paper created. I'll have to find other suitable subjects for this type of print to test more results.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I have a nine year old now.
Before we took the boy out to dinner for pizza, we opened presents.

One of the great things he got was from his Aunt Amanda. It is an air powered rocket. You pump air into a locked chamber and build up pressure under the foam rocket. At the base of the pump is a pull cord. When you pull that, look out! It releases the rocket HIGH into the air.
It took me a few tries to get a picture of it in the air because my reaction time couldn't keep up with the speed of the rocket. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the rocket. It has white foam at the top and bottom with a blue center. It's roughly a third from the top of the frame. Notice that all the kids are still looking down. I took it as he was pulling the cord and that's how high the rocket already went. It's mostly nerf type material, so it comes down a little slower than a piece of lead.

After dinner, we each decorated a car cake for his birthday.

Meredith does not have a car represented here because she ate hers while the rest of us finished up.
The nine year old did have a great birthday after school today, but now it's almost ten pm and he is still awake. Maybe the Dr. Pepper at dinner was a bit much for him. He is getting really whiny and a starting to get himself in trouble. It is rare for him to be awake past nine. He came in here as I was typing this blog and he could hardly keep his eyes open. He said he didn't want this day to be over yet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

People Keep Messing with ME!

I ordered a new hand held GPS unit last week. I also ordered the mapping software and a bracket to mount the unit to the windshield. Amazon is my favorite store. The lines aren't very long, the store is clean, they have wide aisles, and they are open 24 hours a day.

We opted for the free shipping on my order. In the past they shipped the items out in a day or two and the free shipping would take about three days.

I was checking the order status obsessively. A few days passed and they still hadn't shipped my order. On the fourth day they shipped the mapping software. The rest of the order remained on hold. Maybe the rest will ship on Monday.

Now it's Tuesday and the mapping software arrived in the mail. When I checked Amazon, I noticed they shipped out the windshield bracket this morning. The actual GPS remains on hold.

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE MAPPING SOFTWARE? Mount the friggin' DVD to my windshield and guide myself as the sun reflects off the disk?

I suppose I could load the maps onto the computer and then route my trip before I leave the house. Oh yeah, that's kinda like using Google maps. Google maps is free.

Do you know how obsessed I have become about my order? I called Cari from work and asked her to check my order. Still, the GPS did not ship. Cari did a little searching for me and found another site selling the units for almost exactly the same price. This new site was also offering free shipping. Cari placed the new order and canceled the rest of the Amazon order.

If they thought it was funny to mess with me, I'd show them! I imagine some guy sitting at a desk looking at my new GPS and shipping all the accessories one by one. He'd watch me log in and check my order every five minutes and then laugh hard enough to fall out of his chair. Now who's laughing AMAZON ORDER GUY? Why don't you use that GPS to help you find a life.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I'm off on Sunday. You may think that is a good thing. At first, even I thought it was a great thing. I love my days off. That's why being off on March 9th makes me so mad!

Did you remember to move your clocks ahead one hour when you went to bed Saturday? My day off just got an hour shorter!! What a freaking scam.
Think about a guy working third shift. Let's say that he works 8pm to 5am. He is going to get paid a full shift but worked one hour less last night.

What about me? That's one less hour at home! Cari tried to remind me about moving the clocks back an hour in the fall, so I should stop my whining. I don't want to hear about the past, I'm talking about TODAY!

I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to be an hour late to work on Monday. I'll show them!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Passing Storm

On Tuesday night we had some strong storms come through the area. They had pretty much passed by the time the sun was going down. I noticed this view and literally ran for my camera. Once the sun gets that low I knew it wouldn't last long. I was able to take four shots before it was over.The dark cloud extended almost to the horizon to the right of this shot. It was moving fast and clear sky replaced it quickly. Thanks to the setting sun, I got some awesome color in the clouds.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The new toy

Sometime last week Cari and I went to the mall. At one point, I walked through Radio Shack to see if there were any gadgets that I couldn't live without. Amazingly, I found one! It's a small tripod that will hold my camera or my flash. But this isn't just another tripod. This one has bendable legs. I explained to Cari how I just couldn't possibly take decent pictures without a bendable tripod.

Once we got to the car, I tore open the package and wrapped it around the steering wheel with my flash as a test. AWESOME!

Our family trip to the park this past weekend gave me my first chance to use the new tripod. We found a place near the water to stop and take some photos. I set up the camera on the side of a hill surrounded with foliage. I wanted to set up my flash off to the side of the shot to light our faces. There wasn't a tall rock to balance the flash on. I didn't see any other options to support the flash in position, so I grabbed my new toy out of the bag. After a few moments, I had my flash in position and aimed for the portrait. Cari actually was impressed that I "needed" that bendy tripod. She took a picture of it in place:
It worked perfectly. It's not that big, so I have now included it in my gear to take on all trips.

Here's a photo with no flash:
And the same pose taken with the flash, tied to a tree:
I told you I had to have it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Scam

It's Saturday night and I'm scheduled to work until eleven pm. There are three of us working and things were pretty well under control. At nine pm I was ready to go. I played out a scheme in my head to get myself out and leaving my coworkers to finish my work.

At 9:15 I approached Sara. "You want to leave early tonight," I asked. She confirmed with her best "duh" voice. Our third coworker, Jeff, was standing there. I repeated my question to him. He of course was interested in my offer.

"Let's draw straws for this," I told them both. I explained we'd draw and the winner could go home. Sara suddenly became uncomfortable with leaving early and said she wasn't going to play. She'd rather work. My odds of going home early just increased by nearly twenty percent!

Jeff and I stood there and he asked if I was serious about this. Was he nervous as well? I outrank Jeff in seniority and rank, but was trying to make this fair instead of just leaving. I really wanted to go home, but I don't need to burn any bridges at work.

I pulled a quarter out and flipped it into the air. "Tails," Jeff called. The quarter hit the ground and rolled away from us. When we finally found it, it was tails side up. I said some curse words in my head, but accepted my loss.

Jeff again questioned if I was serious. "Of course," I told him. I could tell he was nervous. "If you don't leave, then I am."

He said he was going to stick around for ten minutes to finish what he was working on. I told him to have a good night and went into the office. About five minutes later, I came out to see Jeff talking to Sara. He came up and asked a third time if I was ok with him leaving. I told him he won the deal, he should leave. Then he asked, "You have a pretty far drive home, don't ya?"
I told him I did. He then told me to go ahead and leave and he would get his another day.

Although my plan almost backfired on me, I walked to the car with a huge smile. I was leaving work about an hour and a half early on a Saturday night. My coworkers can't hold it against me because I offered them an equal shot at it and they both GAVE it to me. They felt GOOD about me leaving! HA!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Return to Chau-Ram

Last week, Cari and I tried to visit Chau-Ram county park without success. After driving an hour we were told the park would not open until March 1. Guess what today is?

After lunch, we loaded up the car and the five of us headed out to Chau-Ram. God help them if they hadn't opened the park yet.

The last ten minutes of our drive consisting of "are we there yet?", so I was relieved to see no gates or barriers to the entrance of the park.
There is a great waterfall when you first arrive to the park. This is Chau-Ram falls on the Ramsey creek.

There are several trails that follow the nearby river and one leads to a large suspension bridge. We took the path over the suspension bridge and up the hill.

We took the stroller for this hike. The path leading to the bridge was paved. The bridge was not a problem to push the stroller over. Even the dirt path on the other side of the river was easy. Suddenly the path became a rocky, root infested, narrow path, leading up the hill. I grabbed the front of the stroller and pulled while Cari pushed up the hill. It was a bumpy ride for Brenna, but she didn't seem to mind one bit. At the top of the hill we had a choice to make. The path split off three ways.

Randy checked his map.
He wasn't looking at the map of the park or its trails. In fact, he grabbed the wrong pamphlet at the visitor center. He was looking at a map showing waterfalls of the entire upstate of South Carolina. Cari and I decided to continue on the blue blazed trail we were on. It couldn't be any worse than the hill we just climbed.

Oh how wrong we were. After climbing a much steeper hill the path became choked with briers. Then I saw a narrow staircase. These wooden steps lead down to the riverbank. We were beyond half way around the loop trail now and turning back didn't sound any better. I held the baby along with my camera gear while Cari folded the stroller and dragged it down the stairs. At the bottom, the trail remained narrow. We all walked single file to make it between the trees and shrubs. I ended up packing my camera gear away and carrying the stroller for most of this path.

Then Meredith started complaining about the long walk. Mind you, this trail was about a mile TOTAL. This was NOT a long walk. Before I could say anything, Cari reminded the older two kids that we were carrying a baby and a stroller. THEY should not complain about anything at that moment. Remarkably, it kept them quiet.

We came to a section of rapids that had a small beach on the bank. We stopped to take a break and get a few photos.

To get them to smile, Cari told a joke. About me. I didn't hear the joke because I was off unpacking the camera gear. I was a little nervous because they were laughing so hard and nobody would tell me the joke. I still don't know what was so funny.

It wasn't long after that break, that we reached the end of the trail. Never again will I attempt to take a stroller on a hike. No matter how flat and smooth the trail looks. It's misleading.

Before we left, Randy took up residence on a small island in the river. As Cari and I were crossing the bridge we looked down and saw this:
Chau-Ram county park is a great place to visit. You can save some space in the trunk by leaving the stroller at home. You might want to use some of that space by packing a bolt cutter. You never know when they'll lock the gates.