Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Touch My Glove

It appears Paul Clemmons is finally moving away from his ties with Big Tobacco and attempting to move into the much less scrupulous field of Boxing Journalism. He recently wrote an article about Alexander Povetkin that was published on a Boxing site called Touch Gloves.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Gene Simmons Production?

Believe it or not, there is a KISS tribute band whose members are all midgets. Even harder to believe is that there are two KISS tribute bands whose members are midgets. Tiny KISS and Mini KISS have started feuding as well, and I've also heard that both small versions of Peter Chris have already gone into rehab and Allen Aaron is entertaining offers from each band to step in as a replacement.

Stupid Cave Tricks

I almost forgot about something really cool we did in Tumbling Rock this past Saturday. We were about halfway back to the Topless Dome when we stopped to rest, grab a snack, and for a quick battery change. Morris pulled a bag of Wintergreen Certs out of his pack and gave Bob and me a handful. Then we turned off all our lights and sat there in the pitch black chewing up the Certs with our mouths open. They actually do generate sparks, just like I had always heard about but had never personally seen in action.

Been Around the World and Found That Only Stupid People Are Breeding

Here's a sample from an article about gasoline prices on CNN.com today.

I fill my car with 50 dollars worth of gas. I drive to the store to buy a 6 dollar bag of beef jerky. It takes me 3 dollars to go 14 miles to buy the jerky. I eat it all before I get home so I must go back to the store to buy more jerky for 6 dollars. Again it costs me 3 dollars in gas. I finish the jerky just as I arrive at home only to get an upset stomach from 1/2 pound of dried beef swelling in my stomach. I now have to spend another 3 dollars in gas to buy a 7 dollar bottle of Rolaids. This 1 hour of my life cost me 28 dollars. With the price of gas these days I think its time to give up on beef jerky. Another pleasure gone due to gas prices.

Joe Stain, Atlanta, Georgia

I'm not sure what else I can say about stupidity at this level that Mr. Stain didn't already convey. Paying 24 bucks a pound for beef jerky is pretty asinine as well. If you love it so much, buy it in bulk.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cave #6 - Tumbling Rock Cave

I woke up at 5:30 on Saturday morning and was ready to leave the house by 6:00. A new grotto member named Bob was supposed to meet me at the house by 6:00 to ride to the cave, but he wasn't there by 6:10 so I pulled out. I got maybe a mile from the house and my cell phone rang. Bob was at the house, so I went back to pick him up and we headed down I-24.

We waited at the meeting spot at Shoney's until 7am, but no one else showed up. We went on down the road a bit and met up with Morris Sullivan in Murphreesboro. Morris is a veteran caver, but had never been to Tumbling Rock, which was our destination in Jackson County, Alabama. We all piled into the Honda, grabbed a biscuit at the Hardee's drive-through, and headed towards Bama.

We made a quick stop at Martin Springs, which I had visited two weeks earlier. On that occasion, the spring was running really high and was full of mud. This day it was very clear and pretty. It's part of a cave, but the entrance with the spring is sumped. A pit entrance exists on the ridge, but that will have to wait for another day and after I learn how to do vertical caving.

We got to Tumbling Rock Cave about 9:30 in the morning and paid our seven dollars each for parking to Mrs. Precise, the landowner's wife. We also bought a photo copied map of the cave for a buck. The map was nice, but it was practically useless for navigating in the cave. It just doesn't show enough detail for a cave that has six miles of passageways in it. The map didn't survive the cave either and we forgot to buy another one after we left.

After Mrs. Precise unlocked the gate on the cave, we entered and started for our destination which was approximately two miles into the cave. We took it slow on the way in, since Bob and Morris wanted to take a lot of pictures, and most of the nicer formations occur earlier in the cave. This cave features a lot of flowstone formations, and some of the more interesting ones are where flowstone has formed, been broken, then formed over the older formations.

This cave was not as easy as I thought it would be. I'm in much better shape than I was this time last year, but I still have a long ways to go. Tumbling Rock has some really wide borehole passages that you can just stroll down, but it also features crawling, stooping, wading, and lots and lots of climbing and sliding over large piles of breakdown. There was one really large pile of breakdown that I would say was at least four or five stories tall that we had to climb up and then down the other side.

Finally, just as I know I'm reaching my physical limits, we stoop walk down a low, wide passageway that eventually gets high enough to walk comfortably in. From a ways off you can hear water falling. Suddenly you come upon a strange sight, which is a hole in the ceiling about 3 feet in diameter, with about as much water pouring out of it as you would expect from a normal shower. There's a small pile of rocks piled up underneath it.

I sat down and rested right next to the pile of rocks, and Bob and Morris did as well.

"I guess we're gonna have to go up there," I said to Bob, pointing at the hole in the ceiling.

"Yeah, right," said Bob, laughing at me. I wasn't completely sure, but I thought I remembered someone telling me about having to go up a small hole in the roof to get to where we wanted to go in this cave. I knew there was a group of cavers from Atlanta right behind us, so we waited for them to confirm that yes, we indeed had to crawl up into that hole if we wanted to see one of the most spectacular sights in any cave in the southeast.

So Bob went up first, with me giving him a knee and a little shove to help him along. Then I barely managed to get up after using Morris' knee. You have to get up as high as you can then use your arms to push up until you can get at least one foot set to help you the rest of the way up into the upper passageway. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. Morris made it up all by himself since he's small and in excellent shape.

After you make it through the hole, you follow the small stream of water for about 30 feet and you walk into the bottom of a circular shaft that is about 20 feet or so in diameter. There's water falling down in the middle of the shaft like it's some sort of huge shower room. Then you look up and it just takes your breath away. . .

You can't see the top.

Seriously. You shine your headlamp and move around the edges of the water in a vain attempt to see where it's coming from, but you can't. The water is falling such a long distance that it's divided up into large drops that just appear out of the darkness. They also seem like they're falling in slow motion. You can watch an individual drop of water falling towards your face for almost two heartbeats.

It's called the Topless Dome of Tumbling Rock and it's a perfect name for it. Someone recently managed to photograph the entire dome, but they had to lug in huge spotlights to do it. The shaft goes straight up for 440 feet, which means at one point I was about 450 feet below the surface above. That's 1.5 football fields.

Since we were cold and wet and nearing exhaustion at this point, we decided not to go any deeper into the cave and head for the entrance. It took almost as long, since I had to stop and rest a lot, plus we got turned around a few times and had to back track when we hit a deadend. We finally exited the cave at about 3:30 so we were inside for about 5.5 hours. This was the longest I've been inside a cave so far, and also the most distance traveled.

We stopped in Kimball, TN for some quick Mexican food, and by the time I made it home I pretty much passed out after a long, hot shower. Sunday was a day of sore and weak muscles, but today I felt much better. My upper back all around my shoulder blades and down to my triceps hurt the most, but my quad muscles came in a close second in complaining the most the last two days. If I could do a trip like that twice a week I wouldn't have to worry too much about diet and exercise.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Maundy Thursday

Blogging has been slow in April. I know my legions of loyal readers are growing restless so I thought I'd catch everyone up on what's going on in Hatcherland.

Jackson is doing great. He's really turned into a cheese factory. We call him that because he smiles so much and is such a happy baby. He's really gotten into grabbing things lately and instead of just trying to suck on his thumb he tries to suck his whole fist into his mouth, along with loud smacking noises for the full effect.

Victoria is turning into a teenager, along with all the angst and confusion that goes along with that. She smarted off to a teacher a few weeks ago and I had to wake up early this morning to take her to detention at school at 6:45 am. Bleh. It was too early even for her.

Marissa is doing great and is being a great mother. She and the baby both had thrush last week but other than that both are pretty healthy.

Anyway, this weekend is Easter of course. We'll go over to Marissa's Dad's house on Sunday for lunch and an Easter egg hunt. Then we'll have dinner with her mother and some other family members. My mom is coming up this weekend as well, so Jackson should get his fill of grandparents.

I'm leading my first cave trip down to Jackson County, Alabama early on Saturday morning. We're going to Tumbling Rock cave and anyone is welcome to join in. Look for a trip report in a few days.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cave #5 - Cedar Ridge

Dr. William Halliday turns 80 years old next month. He's been caving for quite a while, especially out in the lava tubes in Hawaii. He's decided that his hips and knees have had enough and he's going to retire from caving. Before he does, he decided he wanted to see one cave that he never got around to seeing, which is Cedar Ridge near Battle Creek, TN.

We all met as usual at Shoney's on Saturday morning, and after a quick breakfast we headed towards the cave. The cave is just off the Interstate on an access road. The entrance is a short walk from where you park and is impressively gated. Five of us from the Nashville Grotto arrived at about 10:15 am and saw about 12 people from Georgia headed into the cave before us. They were from the Dogwood City grotto along with a group of boy scouts.

We suited up and headed in ourselves. There's a small entrance room that actually had a single bat in it. After locking the entrance behind us we headed in, having to squeeze through an old gate which made me really have to suck in the gut to get through.

Now the reason Dr. Halliday really wanted to see this cave is because it's got an incredible amount of decorations. They get started just after the old gate and get more and more amazing as you go deeper. The cave only has about 500 feet of horizontal passage, but it's almost impossible to describe how beautiful it is. I just don't have the words. There are stalagtites with crystals growing on them, columns covered with gypsum, cave bacon, pools of crystal clear water.

We spent almost three hours in the cave and could have spent even more. Everyone I've asked has said if you only visit one wild cave in your life, this would be the one to see.

This picture is me standing next to a column on one side of the main room in the cave. Notice all the soda straw stalagtites on the ceiling. They're actually thicker than this in many areas of the cave.

Jay and I drove to another cave called Gourdneck that was a few miles away. We went to the entrance but I just didn't feel comfortable. The entrance goes straight down and they've placed 3 aluminum ladders with a guide rope. My legs and arms were already rubbery from the first cave so when I got about 4 rungs down I just had no strength left in my legs. I came really close to having a panic attack at that point. I couldn't get my feet back up to the next rung because my knee pads were grabbing on the ladder. It was just a bad scene.

I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself. I managed to pull myself up a rung at a time just using my arm strength and made it out of the entrance. I'll go back to Gourdneck after I've lost about 30 more pounds and early in the day when I'm well rested.