Saturday, September 7, 2013

Memoirs of a convergent thinker

I spent all of 2011 engaged in cognitive rehabilitation and therapy.

Rose contemplates OT vs. PT vs. S.L.P., February 2011

      I had some amazing therapists.

Among them was Sue Newman of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.
      She imparted many things upon me and helped me to understand that I am a 

                                         Convergent Thinker.

        What is a divergent or convergent thinker?

                            A metaphor I came up with:
        Picture yourself lying on your back on some nice comfortable grass with your head near the base of a large tree.

                            Are you there yet?

        A convergent thinker can hone in on the absolute details of the furthest out bud. They can literally feel what the texture of the branches must be. And they know what the tree's fate will be exactly 12 years from now.

        Conversely, a divergent thinker can see all the intersections of the branches leading up to the top, and they can speculate on the many different ways that the branches must be textured, and think about several fates the tree might have.

        The point is that a convergent thinker might miss the multitude of paths leading up to that aforementioned bud 100' above them and the divergent thinker might not have as detailed a drawing of that bud's anatomy.

                            These are absolutes, and we live on a spectrum, not at absolutes.

        I am pretty far down the convergent thinker end of the thought-spectrum, and that's not a bad thing. The world needs convergent thinkers, in my humble opinion. Teamed up with a divergent thinker, great tasks can be accomplished efficiently and completely.  

      Furthermore, as Sue Newman made me realize, there is a great power in understanding which end of this spectrum you lie on. The techniques she taught me for "coping with" an extremely convergent mind allow me to harness this hyperbole 

                            Band name, I call it!

                                  and achieve great things with it.

        Like anyone's, my convergent mind will still cause trouble when I let it go unchecked. That I am a convergent thinker is likely no surprise to anyone who knows me. If I were a gunslinger, I would shoot from the hip and ask questions next. As it stands, I am the guy who will put something in his pocket and realize 40 miles later that I needed to leave that item back where I grabbed it.

                            Get it?

      The purpose of this post is twofold:

  1. A confession: I am a convergent thinker, and I am okay with it. When is the last time your convergent thinking got you in trouble? What about your divergent thinking? I don't think one is better than the other, simply different.
  2. A plea: Take a moment to identify where you lie on the spectrum, and think about how your antithesis might operate. I have found attempts at balancing my convergent-thinking habits to be very beneficial. Your employer will probably get a kick out of it, too! I view my convergent thinking as an asset, and think you should view your position on this spectrum an asset as well.
      Future posts will either be labeled as convergent or divergent, depending on the dominant thought process responsible for that story :-).

      Speaking of future posts, here are my current post-goals coming in the next few weeks:
      1. Tell the story of Liz and my first alpine climbing trip this summer in Glacier Gorge of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Liz follows up the third pitch, North Ridge of Spearhead Mountain, 7-27-13. My cold feet warm up while on belay.

      2. Talk about my trip up to Minneapolis with Angelyn and her family.

Holly, Peggy, Angelyn, and myself got to visit Minneapolis this summer.

      3. My trip to Alaska to visit family and see Kim and Jamey get the most married at the beautiful Resurrection Bay outside of Seward, AK.

View out to the ocean from Seward, AK, 7-2-13

Oh look, I just did it there! 

More to come.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Crummiest $87 used helmet I ever bought

Disclaimer: this 'account' is fiction and pseudoscience at best

Schmudo was bored. 

It was Saturday, June 8, at 8pm. He glanced at the clock and remarked to his roommate,

"Time to drink!"

Forsythia, his roommate, boldly and matter-of-factually replied, under a haze of methamphetamine-induced grandeur

"Isn't it always?"

Schmudo grabbed his third Keystone Light ('for the rich and famous', the bottle read), and before he really cared to notice, proceeded to grab his fifth. Glancing back down at the clock, Schmudo wasn't pleased that his friends hadn't called to go to the local tavern.

"It's already pert near ten, should we just go?"

Forsythia didn't respond.

"Syth, should we?" He persisted

After several minutes of this back [and forth], Schmudo realized that his cohort not only did not hear him, but that she was asleep, and probably would be for a great long while.

"Well, I'm gonna go have fun." Schmudo proclaimed.

Schmudo was not an idiot, but he didn't care to think of himself as anything less than top gun hot hot shit bad ass numero uno. He frequently reminded himself of this, having invented a handy acronym


He liked the way it rolled off his tongue.

Schmudo was also not the brightest light bulb in the factory.

So, at 11 pm, he sat cross legged in his North Knoxville apartment complex, pondering what to do. By 11:30 pm, he had come up with a plan.

"I know a guy," he said, having forgotten that Forsythia was no longer cognizant. He stood up, rolled her over onto her back so she could gasp clean air rather than the cigarette-riddled carpet her mouth had been sleepily tasting.

He grabbed Forsythia's helmet, and walked over to 5800 Central Avenue Pike. A yuppie apartment complex, he thought, with nice cars and no security. Perfect. He had actually spent some time in the apartment complex, having a mutual friend living there. They are the cheapest apartments in the area, which make a perfect home for his friends. Remembering a vintage motorcycle he remembered seeing parked in the same place for months, Schmudo casually walked up and ran his hand along its bow and stern. By this time, it was "pert near midnight" as he liked to say.

Next, he hopped on the bike. 

"Whew, he left the steering unlocked tonight," Schmudo muttered to himself.

Without starting it [yet], he rolled the 1976 Kawasaki KZ 400 (he didn't know this, to him it was just an old junky-lookin' bike) away from its parking spot directly beneath a small street light. A few hundred feet downhill, he found himself in pitch darkness with no one around. He grabbed the four-inch-long flat head screwdriver he "borrowed" from Forsythia, jammed it hard in the ignition, and wiggled until the motorcycle's HUD lights turned on. 

He had ridden Forsythia's bike before, and knew to turn the gas on. He reached down to the headcock (he didn't know what this piece was called). Fortunately, the arrows illuminated by his skull-and-crossbones Zippo+LED light combo were visible. He switched the gas on.

Fiddling with the gas, and not knowing the bike-specific magical combination of throttle:choke, it took him a minute to get the bike running.  Like he thought, 'an old junky bike. that guy probably doesn't even ride it.'

Once he got it going, it died, as all bikes will do unless you know the magical throttle:choke combination. He knew that he was starting to make noise, and heard a few dogs barking. He put his helmet on[to his quite small head], and hopped on the bike. The bike had a tarp attached to the rear rack, but he thought it looked dorky, and so he threw it to the ground. 'Instead', he thought, 'I'll tie this helmet on the back. It is way too tight for me, anyways, and this way people will think I'm on my way to pick up some hot chick.' He had brought a mesh cargo net, and so he also ditched two of the elastic tie-downs attached the bike, and secured the helmet beneath the mesh cargo net. Next, he started the bike, fiddled with the throttle, and slowly rolled down Dry Gap Pike.

After about 2 seconds of riding south on Dry Gap Pike, he noticed that the bike didn't run right. He tried to throw the throttle wide open like he had seen in the movies, but that just made it worse. He settled in, and started to enjoy himself, despite the bike being what had heard called 'a toad'

A few hours later, having passed very few cars, he decided to try the highway. While accelerating on an I175 on ramp, he again noticed the bike not running right, especially as he opened the throttle. What Schmudo didn't know is that this bike's carburetors needed cleaning. He looked down at the odometer, saw it read '70 miles,' and thought 'these tanks look they can go at least 200, right??'

Several more hours later, it was nearly 3am. Schmudo realized he had been riding for hours. He had gotten off the highway long ago, instead preferring speeding down residential streets and laughing at the fact that he was able to make dogs bark, seemingly on command.

At 3:30 am, the bike shuddered. He was rolling northbound on Broadway Avenue, and turned east onto a residential street. The bike died.

'by god. shit,' he muttered.

He got the bike running again, this time remembering that motorcycles had a "reserve" function, which 'let you drive for at least 50 more miles, right?' he speculated.

A block later, the bike quit. He was on Lawson Avenue in North Knoxville, and set the bike up on its kickstand, dismounted, and wondered.

'Well, the suns comin' up in a few hours, i should go get some gas and get this into my buddies garage,' he said quietly to no one in particular.

Leaving the helmet perched on the rear of the motorcycle, he regrettably cursed to himself

'Why did I throw that tarp away?! sure would be nice to cover this thing up!!'

He reached Broadway on foot.

'i am done. cuttin' my losses. i had fun, and no one will ever no. 'cept me. that's what matters,' he confidently muttered to himself.

Schmudo walked the five miles back to his apartment. He briefly thanked his lucky stars that, even though he had put nearly 70 miles on that old junky bike over the past few hours, he ended up only a few miles from where he started. 'funny, that,' he said to himself with a grin. Schmudo said a lot of things to himself with a grin.

Meanwhile, about the same time Schmudo ditched the KZ 400 (again, he had no idea and didn't care what make, model, or flavor the bike was), Donnie Hicks woke up.

"Rose, why have you been whining for the past six hours!?" He angrily looked at Rose, then the clock: 4 am. "Fine." He conceded and took her outside.

"Hm. Motorcycle is gone, I must be dreaming."

He walked around the entire apartment complex, slowly waking up and realizing that his motorcycle was indeed gone. He walked back inside his apartment to ponder.

Banjos make good WAKE UP music..

At 9 am, he filed a police report. 

At 6 pm on Sunday, June 9, he got a call from the Knoxville Police Department.

"Gordon. We have recovered your bike. You can pick it up tomorrow from the impound lot," Rhonda happily told him.

At 4 pm on Monday, June 10, Donnie went to the Knoxville Impound Lot. And who did he find but...

'What's that on the back' Donnie wondered

No body damage. The bike looks like it never left his kickstand. The first thing Donnie did was look at the headcock. As he suspected, someone had turned it to reserve. He opened the gas tank, and saw that there was but a mouse's swallow of gas left (that's a Southernism, ya know). He looked at the odometer: 144. 

'ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR!?' he cackled, laughed, and giggled all at once (those of you that know Donnie know what this sounds like). He checked his phone, where he kept detailed records of mileage and gas fillups, and confirmed that it had been 144 miles since his last fill up. Usually filling up around 100 miles, since he knows the reserve function does not work, Donnie was surprised that the bike went this far before 'puking out.'

He paid the impound lot $87 dollars to cover the "towing fee," signed a receipt, and rolled the bike outside of the gates. After going home and having his lovely girlfriend drive him back to the impound lot, he emptied the two gallon gasoline tank he had just purchased from his neighborhood friendly Ace Hardware and could still barely see the top of the gasoline in the three gallon KZ 400 gas tank. 'Yep, she was emptier than a cow's stomach on harvest day' he thought (that's another Southernism! You can use it!).

He drove home without incident, secured the bike in its same old spot with a bicycle lock, and then drove to Sonic to get a well-deserved Chicago dog.

My helmet on the left, Forsythia's on the right

Monday, May 27, 2013

Short on Linville Gorge Karma Points

Trip report

My dear friend P. Lee and I got to do something this weekend that she had been wanting to do for over a decade: climb a couple of classic routes in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. P. Lee is a busy gal, but Memorial Day weekend provided us with a window to meet up and do this. We hadn't seen each other since last year, and it was merely great to see each other, let alone do some multipitch climbing in this area.

We initially had hoped to camp near the trail head (see for a map of the whole area; Linville Gorge wilderness is in map section G3). The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is a surprisingly remote area of North Carolina. There is very little cell phone signal to be had, and the nearest town (Linville Falls) is very small, with very few amenities. These factoids will be significant later in this story… Successfully foreshadowed. However, as we are both semi-mediocre Weekend Warriorand we have amazing friends in Asheville, it ended up working out better to stay in a house. Specifically, the gorgeous house of our even more gorgeous friends Jackie and Paul Langille.

Jackie and Paul's house

Jackie and Paul recently moved to Asheville, NC after Jackie landed a tenure-track Assistant Professor job at UNC. However, both she and Paul were out of town this weekend, and they graciously agreed to let us use their house for sleeping time, eating time, etc. When I asked whether there was something I could do in order to repay them for their generosity, Paul asked that I scratch their cat Samantha behind the ears. 

Samantha the cat.


I arrived in Asheville on Friday, May 24 around 12pm. After dropping some things off…

The rack

...and relaxing for a few minutes…

I met up with my amazing friends Michael and Gretchen, where we had lunch at the White Duck, where I at some amazingly-Ashevillian tacos.

The White Duck. Duck duck white duck.

Later that night (7:20 pm), Liz’s flight arrived in Charlotte. Later that night (8:20 pm), she retrieved her checked bag and picked up her rental car, a 2013 Hyundi Elentra with 3,200 miles on it. Later that night (10:30 pm), Liz arrived in Asheville. Being that Liz and I are, well, Liz and I, we immediately started darting around the house, sorting gear, and planning for the next day. By 11:30pm, we had everything packed for the next day and were in our respective beds.

P. Lee flaking the rope

It is about a two hour drive from Asheville to the Table Rock Parking Lot. To find this location on the Earth, simply go to and type “Table Rock Parking Lot, Old Table Rock Rd, NC” into the map search bar. If your internet behaves like mine, it ought to show you precisely and accurately where the Table Rock parking lot is. Again with the foreshadowing, this is significant later in the story. Because it was Memorial Day Weekend, we anticipated “a lot” of traffic in the area, at least as much traffic as such a remote area can experience. The climbs we intended to get on, The Mummy and The Daddy are “trade routes,” considered to be ultra classic for both North Carolina and the southeastern United States. Liz had been eyeing these routes for years, never able to climb them for various reasons (i.e. lack of a partner, always doing other things in Linville Gorge, etc.).

“Let’s leave at 3 am tomorrow so we are first in line for the Daddy,” said P. Lee.
“Uber alpine start!” Donnie exclaimed.
“Ultra alpinismagawea,” Liz remarked.

At 3:30 am on Saturday, May 26, both our alarm clocks chimed. We were so excited to go climbing, we weren't particularly groggy, only taking about 10 minutes to throw our things in the rental car and start driving. In my preparations for the day, I had even gone so far as to make a full batch of cold press coffee and have our travel mugs filled for the car ride.

We arrived at Table Rock Parking Lot at 6 am sharp, just as the sky was getting light out. The parking lot was nearly full, which, as I previously alluded, was not surprising to either of us. Nevertheless, we found a spot and were pretty psyched.

6 am at Table Rock Parking Lot!

We started jingling down to the trail, seeing nary a headlamp or camp light on yet as we passed numerous tents and bivy sites a few hundred feet outside of the parking lot. Apparently, no one had beat us to the trail yet. Yipee. It is 0.5 miles along the infamous Mountains To Sea Trail to the Chimney’s, a popular top rope area that Liz had previously led boy scouts to. We stopped to gawk at the sunrise, taking the obligatory yoga-pose-photograph that my friend Hannah insisted I take wherever I travel. Another half mile south on the Mountains To Sea Trail, we found the trail we were looking for.

6:30 am near the Chimneys

At this point in the story, I feel it is necessary to mention part of the reason we decided to climb “trade routes” such as the Mummy and Daddy. Part of the allure for a place like Linville Gorge is the old-school climbing mentality that, if you are new to an area, you will get lost, scared, and tired. You will not simply “find the trail,” download a G.P.S. map of your destination, or otherwise have your hand held and be spoon fed the experience. Thus, we both anticipated that something would at least go a little bit wrong. I thought about “Linville Gorge Karma (LGK) points,” such that whenever something bad happened throughout the day, I assumed that we earned a few LGK points, hopefully preventing further mishap. Disclaimer: this is my interpretation of the old school North Carolina climbing mentality that I gleaned from various conversations with older North Carolina climbers and those who have gotten lost, scared, and tired on their first trips to the area. People that know Liz and I well will understand how these aforementioned tidbits are indeed alluring to us rather than discouraging.

“The trail we were looking for” is the third tunnel through the rhododendron forest on our right past the Chimneys, “marked” by a bowling-ball-sized chunk of bullquartz. Initially, we thought this was  game trail and walked by it. However, a hundred feet later, the trail behind to descend off the ridge, signifying we had gone too far.
  Climbing beta: the approach trail to the Amphitheater area of Linville Gorge is the third unmarked spur trail on the right side of the MST, approximately 0.5 miles past the Chimneys. If you start desceding off the ridge, you’ve gone too far, but just barely. After you realize you’ve gone too far, turn around on the trail and the climbers trail should only be a few hundred feet back.

We had been told by multiple people that this descent was miserable, and a waste of time. The guidebook mentions a way to avoid the descent by rappelling a nearby buttress, and we had heard from numerous others about other ways to avoid the descent gully, but…

P. Lee: “Let’s just go down the descent gully, it can’t be that bad, right?”
Donnie: “I don’t know, I heard from Bob that it was a waste of time.”
P. Lee: “Yeah, but it will be good to just do ourselves so we can see, right?”
Donnie: “Yeah, let’s just do it. We’ve probably done a lot more questionable descents in Colorado.”

The descent gully was a waste of time. It was barely light outside and the descent gully followed an actively flowing creek. It involved some second classing (i.e. using hands), but I suppose it was best that we could learn that lesson ourselves. And maybe it will get us some LGK points.

We found the base of our climbs, with The Daddy being first up. Liz led the first pitch, which was about 140 feet of super exposed metamorphic rock.

The Prow (right), Lost Cliffs (left), and Linville Gorge (center)

I actually got pretty nervous on that first pitch. Imagine standing on a vertical rock wall with 100 feet of air beneath you. On this first pitch, I was following Liz up, and thus already had a rope running to the top of the pitch, but I was nervous because I was up next. However, that being said, we were both still pretty psyched.

Top of pitch 1 on The Daddy

I led the second pitch, which was an 80’ pitch to a tree belay. Tons of exposure, tons of opportunately to place gear, and very mellow climbing. A perfect match for a new traditional climber like myself.
The third pitch was a bit confusing: the guidebook said to traverse up and right, but that looked hard. Plus, we saw a “bail 'biner” up there, indicating that the previous climber had tried to go that was but back off, presumably because it was too difficult. I initially led up to it to scope it out, but got confused, and, for the first time in my trad climbing career, backed off the pitch. I down climbed 30’ and Liz and I switched places, with her leading the third pitch. P. Lee is a very experienced climber, albeit only being 18 years old (snort). She figured out the pitch right away, bringing me up to the top of the third pitch.
At this point, I was getting really comfortable, having found my Zen. I discovered that following a pitch was more nerve-wracking than leading. When I was following a pitch, I knew I was safely attached to the top of the pitch, as so I could let my mind wander as I climbed. My mind immediately went to the next pitch, which I was scheduled to lead. would I be scared? Would I be able to find protection? Would I be able to even do it. 

  However, when I was leading a pitch, I was so focused on the task at hand that I didn’t have the spare time to let my thoughts wander: I was in the moment, not worrying about the future.
Behold, one of the fundamental reasons why I love climbing. It is difficult for me to be “in the moment,” and climbing brings me there.
I led the fourth pitch of the Daddy, which, in my opinion, is the money pitch. I had so much fun, and I wish that pitch could have been 1,000 feet long instead of 100’. By the top of the pitch, I had written a song about the pitch, sung to the tune of 500 Miles.

I would stem 500 miles.
And I would crimp 500 more.
Just to be the man who climbs a thousand miles not to fall down.

Most clever. 

We topped out at about 1pm, and I ate a granola bar. We spent 10 minutes at the top, taking pictures and reveling in the fact that we had just climbed a trade route that P. Lee had been wanting to climb for over a decade. We found the descent gully, which was a rappel station allowing an easy way down to the base of The Mummy and The Daddy. This is the approach that other climbers had suggested we use rather than the Amphitheater descent gully.

Disorienting picture. Which is right side up! Both of them!

The rappel was surprisingly cave-like.

Short rappel on the back side (north side) of the Mummy Buttress

After getting our rope temporarily stuck, we walked the ~200 feet downhill to the base of The Mummy. About 199 feet downhill (read: just before we got there), P. Lee turned her ankle. Game over, right? Nope. Turns out, P. Lee turns her ankle about once a week. It’s a chronically recurring injury that she is very use to. And P. Lee is pretty damn tough.

“Damn, we don’t have any ibuprofen, do we?” P. Lee asked.
“Nope. Whoops... Guess we should have planned for the worst. You could go soak your ankle in the creek to bring the swelling down?” asked Donnie.
“Nah, it will be fine. It always does this,” P. Lee calmly proclaimed.
“Does what?” asked Donnie.
“It freaks out at first, then it chills out.” P. Lee stated the obvious.
“…” Donnie quietly pondered.
We climb on. It is about 1 pm at this point, and we ate some lunch. We had stashed a pack at the base of The Daddy earlier in the morning with our lunches and extra water.
Next up was The Mummy, arguably the most popular route in Linville Gorge, and one of the most popular ones in the state.

P. Lee 20 feet up the first pitch of The Mummy

P. Lee cruised up the first pitch and brought me up. Again, while following her up, my mind wandered to the next pitch, which I would be leading. I started seriously doubting my ability to climb it. However, once I started leading, I had a blast. Besides, when I was leading, I didn't have to clean the gear that Liz had placed. P. Lee has a tendency to get gear stuck. I am being sarcastic, but also not. I understand her mentality: if a person has to fall 20 feet when 200 feet up a rock face onto a piece of metal the size of fishing lure, I would want it to be good and stuck as well.
We topped out of the Mummy at around 3 pm and found the trail back to the Table Rock Parking Lot, where we arrive at about 4 pm.

Climbing beta: when approaching The Amphitheater, hike one mile south of the Table Rock Parking Lot to the third unmarked tunnel through rhododendron on your right with a bowling-ball-sized chunk of quartz in the middle of the trail. Take this trail about 0.2 miles west. Just as it gets rocky and starts to go down the creek, stay on the same elevation and turn back south. There should be a faint trail. This trail follows the rim of the Amphitheater. When you exit the rhododendron, you will be on the Mummy Buttress. Continue to scramble southwest and downhill until you find the rappel station, a slung boulder with quick links. Do a short rappel (30 feet? See two pictures above) and you will be at the base of The Mummy.

Great! We made it! We climbed The Mummy and The Daddy! But as we were hiking out of The Amphitheater, something seemed off to me. We had just climbed two very classic routes in the area, and had accrued very few Linville Gorge Karma points…
Lo and behold,


As I previously mentioned, cell service is very spotty in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. That’s part of the point, right?
No problem, right? Just change the tire and limp down the 9 miles of steep, rutted, whooped-out road to the highway, limp into town, and get a change, right?
The rental car didn’t have a spare. Nope, it had a space for a spare tire in the trunk, but, alas, it was an empty space. It did, however, have a “self-sealing repair kit,” consisting of a pump and some magical goo that injects into the tire and purportedly seals the leak from the inside. We filled the tire with air, and could clearly hear the leak. We could not find an obvious hole, however, despite using water to find bubbles and thoroughly examined the entire tire surface.
“No problem, let’s call the rental agency,” Donnie thought.
“I’ll call them,” Liz confidently proclaimed.

The magical position to get a cell phone signal. Don't move your leg, P. Lee.

An hour later, we found the magical place to stand in the Table Rock Parking Lot that provided sufficient signal to call Enterprise. After dropping the call a few times, we finally got a stable signal and got a hold of “Keenan” from Enterprise.

It took me 52 minutes to explain to Keenan where we were. This length was not because the call dropped, I had a stable signal to Keenan from Enterprise for 52 minutes. It took me 52 minutes to explain to Keenen, a non-native North Carolinian, where the Table Rock Parking Lot was. I provided the names of Forest Service Roads that it is located along, I provided G.P.S. coordinates, and I provided him with explicit directions to the parking lot from Asheville. It took him a while to get it. Bless his heart, right? I had him confirm the location with me, because it still wasn’t clear to me that he knew where we were. He confirmed. He had it right. I asked him to confirm again. Again, it appeared that he had the location right.

6:30 pm, he found the location and told us he dispatched a tow truck from Charlotte, N.C. He said it would be approximately two hours until the tow truck arrived.
By this time, a group of people camping at Table Rock had adopted P. Lee and I. They fed us a steak dinner (I am not joking), gave us beer, and kept us company.

8:30 pm, no tow truck had arrived.
“There is no way there are going to find us,” P. Lee declared.
“I agree, let’s call them.” Donnie offered.
We called the tow truck, who we had been given a direct line to.
“Yeah, I am almost to you guys!” Tow Truck Driver #1 excitedly declared.
“Will you confirm the address that you are travelling to?” Donnie asked.
“Um…. 141 Ford Road, North Carolina.” Tow Truck Driver #1 replied.
“No. That is nowhere near us.” P. Lee and Donnie both replied.

9:00 pm: “We have to get off this mountain,” P. Lee stated.
“Yeah, that seems wise.” Donnie sincerely replied.

By 10:00 pm, we had re-inflated the car tire, which had lost about 10 pounds of pressure from when we filled it up earlier, and limped our way down the highway. We called Tow Truck Driver #1.
“Yeah, I couldn’t make it up these mountains! Where are you guys?” he asked.

By 10:45 pm, P. Lee and I realized that this guy wasn’t going to find us until we were in the world’s most obvious location. We again limped down the road to a Marathon gas station, which closed a few minutes after we arrived, and we waited.

11:30 pm, Tow Truck Driver #1 pulls into the Marathon gas station.
“My transmission is acting up! I don’t reckon I’m gonna be able to tow y’all to Charlotte!” he stated.
“So what are we going to do?” Donnie and P. Lee asked.
“Well, we’ll hopefully wait for a ride. Dispatch told me to load up your car and try to start driving back and see how she goes,” Tow Truck Driver #1 offered as consolation.

11:45 pm, we had loaded the rental car onto the flat bed pick-up truck.

11:50 pm, we pulled to the side of North Carolina Highway 181.
“Yep, She’s not gonna go any further! Dispatch told me turn her off, wait 30 minutes, and try again” Tow Truck Driver #1 stated.
He turned off all of his lights. Including his safely flashers. We were barely on the shoulder of this rural highway. I jumped out and turned the rental car hazard lights on. P. Lee and I both climbed into the rental car.

3:30 am, after some very restful half sleep that induced multiple Charlie horses and cramps, Tow Truck Driver #2 showed up.

3:45 am, we loaded Tow Truck Driver #1’s truck, with the rental car on its flat bed, onto the back of Tow Truck Driver #2’s truck. We limped to Charlotte.

5:50 am, we arrived at the Tow Truck shop to drop off #1’s truck and transfer the rental car to a different truck to take back to the rental agency.

6 a m, dropping Tow Truck Driver #1 off (left flat bed) to load rental car (left) to another tow truck. Thanks, Tow Truck Driver #2 (right)!

6:30 am, we had a new rental car (a Jeep Cherokee. With a spare).

6:45 am, we ate eggs and toast at Cracker Barrel.

8:50 am, we arrived at Jackie and Paul’s house.

8:51 am, we called people to let them know that we were alive.

8:52 am, we slept until 2:30 pm, having been awake for 31 hours.

We then went to downtown Asheville, ate some pizza, drank some well-deserved beer, and laughed at how ridiculous the previous 31 hours had been.

Life is not too bad.

However, we got to climb The Mummy and The Daddy. I would do it all again.

Viva la climbing.

Take home lessons for me:
1.      Assume the worst is going to happen, rather than that you’ll go to Linville Gorge Wilderness Area for the first time, climb what you indented, and get off without accruing substantial Linvlle Gorge Karma points.
2.      Life is different when you have no cell phone service to call for help.
3.      The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is very, very remote.
4.      Climbing is the best.

Lots of love to Liz. Thanks to my family and Angelyn for understanding that while something wasn’t quite going as planned with P. Lee and I, we were safe.

Next up for P. Lee and I is a climb that is twice as long as the two climbs we did in Linville Gorge. I hope that means our “Epic” will be twice as long.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If it's a terrible day when words can not reach us...but

...Then what to make with a day when words are within reach? I stuttered three times when trying to say that...

I'd love to promise you that you're done reading ellipses in this post, but is is sort of the theme of this entry. My last posting was January 16, just over three months ago. As per my scientific self (NEWS! see below!), I will take a very concrete approach to updating you, my reader.

What is new:

  • I have many new songs, and I even have played/recorded some of them for people!
  • I moved! But only about 140 steps to the southwest...
  • My computer perished; This loss happened precariously close to my M.S. defense; don't ask.
    • My new machine runs Windows 8 isn't all bad...But it is kind of gimmicky
  • I found my headphones!
    • This happened about 12 seconds ago...I thought they were lost for the past several months (*coughsincemovingcough*)
  • I finished my thesis...
  • I fell in love with my Thin Mints. They are all gone now...

Wait, what was that last one?

     Thin mints?

Before that...




I finished my Master's Thesis. 

¶ I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in August of 2009. I had just finished a really fun summer of field work, "hanging out" at Molas Lake, and driving across the country with my Saturn station wagon full of rock samples from Homestake Creek.

When I showed up in Knoxville, I was psyched.

The friends I had made while visiting Knoxville the previous spring as a prospective student were still there.
There were new people; more importantly, I was beginning to like people.
I found a new hobby (story of my life...gear, gear, gear...) in climbing, and friends to climb with (i.e. Liz,  

¶ In the spring of 2010, Kali moved down to Knoxville. We had a grand old time, but even the...well, it is a terrible day when words can not reach us, and, needless to say, we were all silent on the eve of Christmas of 2010. 

¶ However, 2011 was filled (...maybe not initially, or at least apparent to me, but it was) with friends and love, recovering strength, rejuvenating old friendships (some as old as time), and kindling new friendships. My father's friend, Paul Zarembo, was kind enough to replace my broken guitar with a fantastic Seagull mini-jumbo that has served me very well over the past two years.

¶ In 2012, as you know, I made the decision to head back to Knoxville, and finish my graduate degree at the University of Tennessee. Mind you, when I say that I made the decision, I am glossing over some rather sturdy coaxing, brazen encouragement, and unwavering belief. Thanks for that, mom, dad, sister, Peg, Roger, and all the people who impacted me greatly, whether or not you know it...I have had a grand old time, rejuvenating old friendships, kindling new friendships, and falling in love with Angelyn. 

¶ In 2013, it was time to start making progress (ha ha!). Micah had been incredibly supportive of me (hey, we all have our moments; but seriously), although this semester marked my sixth semester as a M.S. student. For those of you that don't know, upon entering graduate school to pursue a M.S. degree, there is an agreement that the school can only guarantee your tuition to be covered for 4 semesters. Head to the ground, I got my thesis drafted up from a collage of sentences in my "THINGS_TO_SAY_IN_THESIS.docx" document to a barely readable draft in a couple of months. No solitary act, here are just a few of the Earth and Planetary Sciences village members who helped me get there:

From left to right: Remy, some joker, Tim, Kyle, Liz (I think? She never calls me!), and Jackie

Oh, yeah, and let's not forget this one:
Rose the Riveter

While working "wire-to-wire," as Jessup described it, the team and I managed to pull it off this spring. I defended my thesis, got seals of approval from my gracious committee members with very minimal edits, and   have submitted my thesis...Well, I have submitted it three times, I am presently waiting for approval from the University Thesis Consultant to be sure that it is formatted correctly. Regardless of whether or not I have to make ~30 minutes worth of formatting revisions (for the fourth time!), I am now comfortable saying that

it's a done deal.

Well, I won't leave you entirely hanging...

  • I will be travelling to Anchorage, AK at the end of June to see Jamey Jones and Kim King get married
    • Travelling convergently but separate: Jacob, Erik, Julie!
  • I will be TAing field camp for the ~5th year in a row.
    • Previously hosting me as a prospective student in spring 2009, this year's field camp will be run by Mike DeAngelis.
  • Is anyone hiring?
    • I am searching for jobs in the east Tennessee area, or really anywhere. I don't think I'm quite done with this neck'o'the woods... 
With extra love to those who braved this text-heavy entry, and even more love to all those I mentioned, forgot to mention, and wished to have mentioned.

Until next time.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One year later...

Today is the one-year anniversary of my moving back to Knoxville.

I am more than happy, and that seems enough: read on if you want to hear an ounce of expounding.

Slightly longer than a year ago, my family and I decided that the right thing to do would be to go back to Knoxville and finish my thesis. I draw a great deal of comfort and solace from the fact that, a year later, I know that I made the right decision and then some. I suspect those that love me will also be glad to hear this.
While I have not finished my thesis just yet, I am busy writing and intending on finishing sometime in April. "There will be water if God wills it." I am very thankful that the school has been able to support me in taking the non-standard, but not-uncommon three years to finish my M.S. degree. Having taken 2011 "off" on medical leave of absence, it looks like four years on paper. "What it looks like" is likely a whole lot less important than What It Is. What it is, what it is.

Compiling a "highlights reel" of any period of time is a dangerous feat, considering the potential of leaving and/or forgetting some of or all the most important things. This highlights to need to remain impartial, considerate, and ambiguous. I will attempt to use Bob Hatcher's apros pois advice to me earlier this year and "try my best." I've always thought trying one's best is so much more than "all you can do," considering how tempting and likely it is to do a whole lot less than one's best.

The past year has helped to solidify the takeaway message of 2011: people are frustrating sometimes, but everything at the end of the day. In 2012, I met a whole people who have changed my life, strengthened relationships I hadn't understood the meaning and importance of, and lost some things. My net gain of love has been immensely positive and that is enough for me. I've recently tried to stop wishing. I have attempted, with some success, to see the situations and people I have as enough. Rather than to wish for more time, more sunshine, or less pain, we try to see the hurt, to spend the time, and to have a healthy degree of fear for rain.

Liz and I struggling to be OK at Williams Creek Campground. I didn't finish the race, but at least I got my feet in some snow.

I hope to finish my thesis in the next few months. I think I can (chugga chugga choo choo). If I don't in the next few months, it won't be a failure. I will succeed. Arno Ilgner taught me how to succeed as long as I try my best, or at least pert near my best.

Angelyn got to take -the- MN picture.

What if I spend all day working,
Come home to a sea of words
A floatsam of art and books
Balance a checkbook of self-worth
No novel can fill the whole but half
A space for two
(for me
  and you)

Thank you all for sending me so much love. Don't stop just yet. I promise to reciprocate.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rose Tries To Be OK

Just needing to host this .gif for posting elsewhere, because it is too phenomenal not to share. Notice the squaring of Rose's ears at the end...

Monday, June 25, 2012

One's body is only as strong as one's explicitly positive mind.

One's body is only as strong as one's explicitly positive mind.

I received my first DNF (Did Not Finish) for a running race at Saturday's San Juan Solstice 50 mile ultramarathon. What happened? I couldn't do it. Or didn't want to. Or was improperly trained. Whichever you find to be the most honest answer.

Liz Lee and I woke up at 3:45am on Saturday, June 23. We had coffee, bagels, yogurt, and bananas. We left our Lake City cabin and got to the starting line about 5 minutes to 5am, the official starting time. The start was, per ultrarunning's general style, very informal - a child hollered "Ready? Set! GO!" at exactly 5am and we headed up Engineer Pass Road for 2.7 miles.

Segment 1: Alpine Gulch

Liz and I checking out the stream crossings on 6-21-2012

    Liz and I stuck together up Engineer Pass Road, a dirt jeep road, cranking out ~9:30 miles to get a good position in the pack for the climb up Alpine Gulch. Liz and I thought it would be better to get at least in the middle before heading up the single track, as there are about 8 stream crossings in the first 4 miles. The RD recommended NOT crossing on the [somewhat shady] log bridges and just plunging into the snow-melt-fed water in the icy twilight hours. We made it up the first five miles (7.7 miles total) of Alpine Gulch to receive aid, although neither of us "needed" anything at this point of the day. Then we climbed up to about 13,000' around mile 10 before descending into Williams Creek. We were both surprisingly wrecked at this point, both having underestimated the ~4,500' steep climb in the first 10 miles of the race.

Receiving aid from my dad at Williams Creek Cmpgrn

       We made it into Williams Creek Campground at mile 15.7 both feeling slightly discouraged, me perhaps moreso. It was about 9am at this point, so we were right on the schedule that we wanted to be.

Segment 2: Carson

     We left Williams Creek Campground about 9:15 after grabbing some food. We walked and ran up the jeep road for 2.5 out of Williams Creek and turned onto the Wager Gulch jeep road to head massively uphill again. It was shortly after turning onto this road that I realized there was no way to keep up with Liz. She was trying for a personal record of beating her 2007 time and I was just trying to finish. We agreed that she should just continue on, and so for the next 6 hours I was by myself.

     I was feeling really bad at this point, and really hadn't been able to eat all day. In retrospect, I think I had actually been taking too many electrolyte-replacement-pills and drinking too much water, as my symptoms were consistant with being overhydrated and being high on electrolytes. I decided that it would probably be the safest if I dropped at Carson ghost town, the aid station at 22 miles.

     I reached Carson aid station, mile 22, around 11:30. I had already decided I was dropping at this point, so I decided to take a seat and try to eat some food. The only thing I was finally able to eat was some ramen noodles. At this point it was about noon. This aid station closed at 12:30, at which point they would drive stragglers back to town. However, I started to feel a little bit better and decided to at least try to make it to the next aid station. I left the aid station about five minutes after noon to head up to the continental divide.

Segment 3: The Divide

     At this point I had been climbing since I left my parents around mile 16, and I still had three miles of climbing to look forward to. However, I was feeling stubborn and a little bit stronger and decided to go for it. And I had been singing this lyric, which I wrote, to myself:

"Smile 'til you feel it
'til your breathing believes it
And your heart will eventually fall in line.
That's what they tell me
when the shit's fresh on the fan
And the gloom's so deep you can't see your hands"

     I made it to ~13,200' at Coney Peak around 1:30, hopped on the Colorado Trail (CT), and struggled my way along the CT trying to make it to the aid station at mile 31. It would have been absolutely gorgeous along this section of the trail, but for one [seemingly] macrocosm: CO is suffering from some very heinous forest fires right now, and there was a lot of smoke in the air at this point.

     The smoke had made its way into Lake City, and once I got to Coney Peak, I actually could not see any peaks in the distance, although I was well above tree line on an exposed ridge at this point. I had been struggling to get a full breath for the past couple of hours, but had attributed it to the altitude. Once I started feeling like I was in the depths of bronchitis, I decided that it was at least partially the smoke in the air.

     I felt like, to borrow a line from Scrubs, "I had taken something as far as it could go" once I reached the divide around mile 25. I knew that there were only about 10-15 runners behind me at this point, and that I really had two options: walk back down to Carson, 3 miles back, and hope they hadn't already moved the aid station back down (it closed at 12:30), or make it to the next aid station 6 miles ahead. The weather was good, I had ample water (probably too much!), and decided to walk/run to the next aid station.

    I showed up at the mile 31 (50 kilometers!) aid station around 3:30 feeling, again, pretty badly. I did the same thing that I did at Carson and sat down in a chair until I was able to stomach some food (ramen noodles) and felt a little power come back to my legs. There were a few other runners which were struggling as badly as I was to keep me company. This aid station had no "closing time," but the next aid station (9 miles up at mile 40) closed at 6. I didn't feel remotely good until about 4pm, and knew that there was virtually no hope for me to run 3.5 miles per hour to reach the mile 40 cutoff. I decided that the safest thing to do was to be satisfied with the most difficult 50km I had ever run.

   Thus, the ride of shame!


     The only way to get down without walking 9 miles was to stick around for another half hour until all the runners had passed through so that the aid station could close, and get a ride down to Slumgullion at mile 40. I ended up riding down on the aid station's 6-wheeler, which had a flat bed on the back with the aid station's gurney strapped down in it. The gurney was an aluminum frame attached to two full size bike front forks. It was a pretty shady 9 mile ride down some technical terrain, but Guy took it reasonably slow and got me down safely.

    About a half hour prior, I officially dropped out of the race at the aid station. I asked if they could tell my parents, who were down at Slumgullion (mile 40) waiting for me to run down, not having heard anything about my struggles since I left them at mile 16 in the morning. They were happy to see my come down the divide on the 6-wheeler and give me a hug.

   Liz finished the race, kicking butt like we all knew she would! I am very proud of her. I am glad that 1.  She was able to book the two of us a nice cabin to acclimate for the race, 2. Hang out with me for a week, and 3. That I have such neat friends.

   I do not view my "DNF" as a failure, but that being said, I still intend to step away from ultrarunning for a little bit. I have enough of my plate trying to finish up my MS degree.

   Thanks for being supportive, everyone!