Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're Saved!

Thank God! Robert Redford has finally weighed in on the energy crisis. Once the celebrities get involved we're sure to finally lick the problem of high fuel costs. As we all know, celebrities are much better than us, well, because they're celebrities! Movie stars have lots of extra time, so they don't need all those fancy schmancy science degrees to help figure out how to solve the world's problems. Besides, scientists are all evil Big-Bang believing tools of Satan anyway. Every time I've watched "Sneakers" I've always thought to myself, "wow, if we could just get Robert Redford focused, we'd have a gasoline free society in no time!"

Alma Mater

So I don't know the exact date, but 20 years ago this month I graduated from high school. Apparently my classmates and I are too unorganized to have a reunion, since I haven't heard anything about one yet.

Now I'm going to relate a really funny story from exactly 20 years ago. It's a story of two young men on the verge of graduating. I'll change the names to protect the innocent, so let's call them Mok and Heff.

Mok and Heff were best friends from a very young age, and did almost everything together, including making poor grades Senior English, controlled with an iron fist by the vile Ms. Horne. This was the one class you had to pass as a senior to graduate, and both Mok and Heff were right on the edge.

As the end of the semester loomed, Heff was convinced he wasn't going to pass English class. His only consolation was that Mok wasn't going to pass either and that they would have to attend summer school together. The rest of us just laughed, because Mok and Heff were both slackers among slackers, and we expected no less of either of them.

Apparently though, Mok thought differently, and with a final spurt of energy and perhaps a little effective begging, a miracle occurred the day before graduation. When the scores were released, Mok had a 60, while Heff received a 59. So close, yet so far away. The rest of us just laughed and laughed.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cave #7 - Stephens Gap Cave

I've now been to six caves this year, and I'm starting to learn a hard taught lesson: cavers lie. I think most don't seriously mean to, it's just that facts tend to get distorted, like distances, difficulty of crawls, how long the cave is, etc.

I dragged myself out of bed Saturday morning about 7am, running a little late. We had about 15 of Victoria's friends over the previous night for an early birthday party for her, and my nerves were pretty frazzled and I didn't get much sleep. I showed up at the Shoney's where we usually meet up for caving trips headed southeast of Nashville and found Don, Joe, and Joe's daughter Kylie waiting for me, along with Gerald and Avis Moni who were headed out to scout some caves closer to Nashville.

We pulled out and made a quick stop in Murfreesboro to pick up Morris and then got going toward Alabama down I24. Like most caving trips I've been on so far, we had fairly vague directions to the cave, which included descriptions like "go up a big hill, down the other side, then look for a turn-off that crosses the railroad tracks." Despite this, we managed to find the right spot. Don had taken a quicker route, and was waiting for us there, along with a local caver named B and his friend from Arkansas, who were very familiar with the cave and offered to show us the way up.

I followed them up to Pipeside Pit, which is a pretty little pit about halfway to Stephens Gap Cave. I think this pit is about 60 feet deep or so, but I could be wrong. I left my pack and helmet there and went back to find the rest of my group to make sure they were headed the right way. I found them coming up the trail with two more local people, whose names I've totally forgotten.

Now at this point is where the distorted distances came into play. I had been told it was an 'easy half-mile hike' up to cave. I had my pedometer on, and while I forgot to mark starting points, I know I walked over two miles total, and very little of that was in the cave. It has to be over 3/4 of a mile each way, and some of it is fairly steep, especially when you're a fat ass with a pack and a helmet strapped to your back.

The pack on my back, by the way, was my new Swaygo Sink Pack that I recently purchased, and this was my first trip with it. I didn't really spend much time planning on what to pack since I knew this would be a short trip, but I had two bottles of water, some granola bars, my plastic bottle with extra batteries, 30' of webbing, a six step atrier, my caving jump suit and my gloves in it. I probably need to get slightly longer straps made for it, since it's a little tight when I'm wearing it and I had them extended all the way out.

We did eventually make it up to the cave, and boy was that hike worth it. Once again, it's difficult to describe just how beautiful this cave is. You walk up a hill from a dry stream bed that you've been paralleling for a while and you suddenly see this huge hole in the ground. It's surrounded by hardwood trees and from about 100 feet away or so you can hear the waterfall that's opposite of the side you approach from.

This pit drops 143 feet, and if you stand at the edge and look down, you can see a rainbow in the water about 50 feet below. There's also birds and butterflies flying all around it, and you can sit and watch the birds bathing in the small pools of water just above the falls. We watched the locals we followed up rig his rope to drop through what he called the "keyhole", which is a small crack on one side of the pit. Don and Morris had planned to drop this pit, and decided to take him up on his offer to use his new rope.

Joe, Kylie, and I headed over to the left of the pit for the other entrance. This entrance is just as impressive, and is almost a twin of the large pit, except that it slopes downward and you can crawl down it. It was about 85 degrees outside that day, which had made the hike more miserable, but as you get about 20 feet down into this entrance, it's like you've just walked into a refrigerator. The temperature suddenly drops about 30 degrees and the air is noticeably more humid.

This entrance is much bigger across than any train tunnel you've seen, and is covered with slippery rocks on the way down, so it takes a few minutes to get to the bottom. As you go down, it curves around and meets up with the large pit about 30 feet above the bottom of it. You can stand at the bottom and see both entrances at once, which is an amazing view.

We watched Morris make the drop through the keyhole, then set out to explore the rest of the cave. I had brought the webbing and the atrier to help us get to the bottom of the pit, but I didn't feel comfortable using it to go down the 10' drop that was keeping us from the bottom. I think I would have been OK climbing up it, but I wasn't sure I could control my descent so I didn't try it.

There was a short section of cave that we could get into on the other side of the cave by following a stream up through a hole and going across some small canyons into a dome with a waterfall that dropped from a hole about 20 feet off the floor. We ran into B and his friend again at this point, as they were making a pulldown trip from another entrance and this was their final drop. The cave has about 7 entrances, and all but one are pits.

We saw one bat flying around in this area of the cave, along with a lot of cave crickets. There weren't a lot of formations, but we did see some interesting crystals in the rock. We exited the cave after an hour or so being very wet and a little chilly. It was nice to get back to the 85 degree weather.

We hiked back to the cars, which was much easier since it was mostly downhill, and picked up a few ticks on the way out. We changed clothes, and drove back towards Nashville, stopping in Kimball for some Mexican food.

You really need to be able to do vertical work to fully enjoy this cave, but I'd recommend to anyone even if you don't have vertical training. I plan to start learning how to do vertical later this summer, so eventually I'll go back and drop all of the pits in this area.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am Jack's Raging Bile Duct

I stayed up late Sunday night and watched Fight Club for the first time in a while. I need to add that to my regular "to do" list.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Movie Review - Mission : Impossible 3

I really dislike Tom Cruise as a person. I think Scientology is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard of. I would never crap on someone's religion, but let's get real. It's all made up stuff set up as an Amway program.

Never the less, I've also had a long standing belief that I could care less about an entertainer's personal life or beliefs. I want them to entertain me. As long as they don't try to start using their celebrity status to influence things that affect me.

So we hadn't been to see a movie in quite a while, what with the birth of the kid and everything. We spent the day at the mall and finally made it to the movie theatre. Marissa and Victoria had their heart set on some chick flick with Lindsey "Boobie Flash" Lohan, and I declined to join them. Looking over the list of movies playing, my choice was Poseidon or MI3. I chose the latter.

I've always loved spy movies, but I think they really need to take a break from making them for a while. They're obviously out of ideas. There was nothing new or original about this movie at all. I was really tired and worn out from walking about 3 miles around the mall beforehand, so at one point I thought I was hallucinating and seeing scenes from other movies in the past.

There's a scene where Tom Cruise is riding a motorcycle without a helmet next to an airport. Does that ring any bells? Then there's a scene where a jet is blowing up pieces of a long flat bridge that goes over a large body of water. Hello? I expected Jamie Lee Curtis to be swinging out of the bottom of the helicopter at that point.

Still, it was an enjoyable Saturday afternoon movie. The action sequences were well done, especially the break-in scenes where small squad tactics were shown. The gadgets weren't too over the top, although I really hate it when they start making us try to believe that someone can put on a latex mask and look exactly like someone else. It's so unbelievable that it's really distracting, but thankfully they didn't do too much of it this time around.

Now we just have to wait to see how bad the next James Bond flick is going to be. I think it needs to rest for about 20 years or so since the last few have been just awful and just based on the actor they picked to play Bond the next one could put the final nails in the coffin.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Happy to be 33?

My little brother turned 33 yesterday. I remembered to call him and tell him Happy Birthday yesterday, but I forgot to post it on the blog. Happy birthday bro. At least you still average down to 30, unlike some of us who average up to 40.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My Baby Asploded

Last night was our turn to help out in the nursery at church, and I spent most of the time holding Jackson or pushing a stroller with two babies in it around and around a large circle, which was great because it let me get more steps in that day.

Right after Marissa left to go to her bible study, I was sitting in a rocking chair with Jackson and he started having what I thought was one of his usual "Farty Parties." After a few minutes though, I started getting a whiff of something rank. I put him on a changing table and carefully opened up the diaper, and it.....it was everywhere!

I know I'm way down the list of parents this has happened to, but it was the first time for me. It took a good five minutes to get him cleaned up and I must have gone through 20 wet wipes. It even got on his socks. If I had been at home I would have stuck him in the sink and sprayed him off, which would have been much easier.

At least now I know how Uncle Bull's wife feels after he's been on a steroid bender.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

11k A Day Makes Hatch Start to Sway

I wanted to start my latest de-bloating effort with a bang, so after work yesterday I stopped at the Stones River Greenway and walked a little over 3 miles. It was a perfect day for walking and the greenway was about as crowded as I've seen it. I ended up walking 11.2k steps yesterday, which is the most I've done since March.

I was feeling a little wobbly when I got off the trail, because I could tell my legs were about shot. Then Marissa calls me and says I need to stop by Lowe's and buy two more boxes of floor tile. We're putting 1 foot tiles down in the basement and didn't quite buy enough the first time. So I wander around Lowe's trying to find the right tiles and then load two of them in the cart. These things weigh about as much as a bag of cement, so they're pretty heavy. I get home and tote them down the hill to the basement and my legs are really complaining at this point.

Today my legs are still rubbery and I looked drunk when I got out of bed and stumbled around this morning. I won't put 11k on the old pedometer today, but I will put as many as I can and try for another 10k+ day tomorrow. Stay tuned here for more boring updates.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Hatch Bloat

So I've been slacking off on the dieting and exercise the last month or so. Saturday when I got on the scales I was at 296 lbs. So yesterday I started back on the low carbs again and I'm going to crank up the walking back to its previous levels. This morning I was back down to 292.5 so I should return to 285 without too much effort. I need to push on through and get below 250 again though, because there's too many caves I want to see that will involve a lot of crawling through narrow passages that right now I just won't fit in.

My recent trip to Tumbling Rock showed this as well. Just climbing up and down rock piles at my weight is cumbersome and I'm putting more stress on my feet, ankles, and knees.

It looks like the next cave trip will be on May 20th, which will probably be down to Jackson County, Alabama again. As always, any of my faithful readers are welcome to come along, but I do require minimum amounts of gear.

Here's a tale of someone who didn't have the correct gear in a cave.