Monday, July 31, 2006

Heff vs. The Arachnid

I got an email from Heff on Saturday afternoon, along with a picture. I thought everyone would enjoy reading it to see how girly Heff has become to torch a harmless creature:

"GREAT Saturday morning for me. I take Donna to work, I'm still half asleep as I get home and notice a rather large weed in the flowerbed which is totally unacceptable. I walk out to the middle of the flowerbed and pull the weed. I turn to my side to look for other weeds since I'm out there, and THIS damn thing is one inch from my nose. I know these things are harmless, but this angus beefsteak of an arachnid scared the wilfred out of me. I squealed like a violated schoolgirl, and nearly soiled myself. Just to give some size perspective, the elephant ear leaf behind him is over 2 ft. His body was about 4 inches, not including the legs, which looked hairier than my back believe it or not. I say "his" because I swear I saw testicles on this thing. Anyway, I took care of it the best way I knew how, and the way I always took care of outdoor intruders as a rebellious, girly teen. Hairspray + Lighter = torched garden spider. Any Fear Factor applications I receive through email or otherwise will be promptly rejected."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Good Number

As of today, I've officially lost 50 lbs since I started trying to lose weight again back in September. It's been an up and down process, but I feel much better. I remember telling someone 10 months ago that I had actually "walked half a mile last night!"

I'm still 60 lbs away from my target weight, so I'm not quite to the halfway point yet. At this point, making the end of this year's thong season is probably out of reach, but next summer everyone better just watch out.

This One's For Heff

To celebrate my 14,000th spin on the planet today, I did two things. First of all, I only consumed 800 calories and 8 net carbs today. How you ask? I ate four low carb bars between 10am and 5pm. I was going to eat five today, but I wasn't really that hungry tonight so I didn't.

Secondly, at Heff's suggestion I put 14,000 steps on the pedometer. I waited a little late to really get started, so I passed 14k just before midnight after walking for over an hour non-stop, which was just over 6.5 miles for the day. According to the pedometer, this burned right at 900 calories, so I burned more calories walking today than I ate.

Since I don't have a cave trip planned until the middle of August, I think I can stay around 1000 to 1200 calories a day until then, except for my anniversay dinner next week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

14k Today

It's been 14,000 days as of today since I was born in Marietta, Georgia. Yes, I know that doesn't really mean anything, but I think it's interesting to keep up with it. I'm a spreadsheet geek, what can I say? My son is 209 days old. Only 15,220 days until I'm 80 years old in the year 2048. Tempus fugit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hatch on a Rope

There's a lot of caves around that require one to go down and then back up ropes in order to see them. I've lost about 50 lbs so far, but I was pretty sure I'm still too heavy to consider doing much rope work as of yet. Avis and Gerald Moni hosted climbing practice tonight at their house for the Nashville Grotto, and John Hickman rigged me up into what is called a Rope Walker system.

I ended up getting my butt about 6 or 7 feet off the ground before I had them lower me back down. I just didn't feel very good about it. The reasons for this as I can tell and from talking to others are:

1. I'm still just too fat. I'm very top heavy and it was making me tilt very far backwards, which makes it more difficult to climb and tires my arms out quicker.
2. The equipment didn't really fit someone my size very well, but this really relates back to reason number one.
3. Damn, it was hot tonight. I was on the rope at 8pm and it was still 90 degrees outside with no breeze and high humidity.
4. My legs are still weaker than I thought from the cave trip to Guffey. I thought they were OK by now, but climbing up the rope my quadriceps still felt very rubbery.
5. It's the first time I've ever tried on climbing gear, so it may be that I just wasn't used to it at all. In retrospect I probably should have just hung there for a bit to get used to it.

I think I'll try again once I'm below 250, which as of this morning is about 32 pounds away.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Cave #10 - Guffey Cave

I first heard about Guffey Cave when I was at SERA 2006 last month, and we almost went there instead of Limrock Blowing Cave that weekend, but the logistics of getting the key for Guffey caused us to skip it at the time. Then I decided to organize a trip to Gross Skeleton for a July grotto trip, but a few people were concerned that Gross Skeleton was a fairly difficult cave with a lot of water and climbing, so I ended up changing the planned trip go to Guffey Cave in Marshall County, Alabama near the town of Grant.

I woke up at the buttcrack of dawn on Saturday morning, and finished getting my stuff together for the trip. Since I've always forgotten something on every cave trip so far, I had a checklist that I carefully went over, and I had everything on it except my compass, which I couldn't find. Jay Santiago showed up just before 7am, and we loaded up the Honda and headed for the usual meeting spot at the Shoney's in Antioch, TN.

We got there and found Joey Stuckey, a new grotto member, waiting for us in the parking lot. We went in, grabbed a table and hit the buffet to wait for the other people to show up. Eve Proper, who is also a new grotto member, showed up a few minutes later and joined us at the table. As we were paying right before 8am, John Hickman showed up and as we hit the parking lot Dave Wascher and his son Andrew pulled up. We consolidated down to three vehicles and then headed down I24.

I made the mistake of using Google Maps to plot the route, planning on going through Manchester and down TN 16 through the Walls of Jericho. Unfortunately, this was not the best route, as John pointed out after we were well into the route that Google had shown us. At least I know the better route down TN 64 for next time.

We still made pretty good time, and managed to make it to Guntersville to pick up the key around 11am. After that we headed back to the cave, and found Don Harter nearby, so the group was complete. The cave is about 100 yards down an old logging road, but it wasn't anything the Honda couldn't handle. We parked, got geared up, and headed down the short trail to the cave entrance. After a bit of fiddling with the gate, we got it open and headed in, locking the gate behind us.

Guffey Cave has over 6 miles of passages, and is currently the 4th longest cave in the state of Alabama. We had no plans to see all of it, since much of that process would involve crawling along 3 feet high passages or lower for thousands of feet. We had a map, and picked a general direction, but as usual once we got in the cave it just sort of turned into going down whatever passage looked the most inviting.

Not long after we go into the cave we noticed that it was warmer in there than expected. After about an hour, I shed the coveralls I had on and put them in my pack. I did the rest of the cave in my shorts and standard red caving shirt. At least I'm consistent in my apparel choices.

The cave was also muddy and had lots of breakdown to crawl over and under, and a few places where you had to slide down on your butt and stretch out with your legs to reach where you were trying to go. After a few false leads, we finally made it to what was called Grand Central on the map. This is a fairly large room with a few formations. It also has some very cool shell fossils in the wall, which I got a few good pictures of. The main thing it featured was a very large borehole leading south, which was a welcome relief.

After a brief rest, we followed that borehole into what is called the Hall of Giants. We finally encountered lots of decorations in this area. It's covered with soda straws and helectites, although the helectites are mostly small, being an inch or less in length. One of the things I found interesting about this cave is that it has lots of small alcoves that contain formations. You'll see a small hole in the wall of the cave, and when you peer into it there will be soda straws, flowstone, and helectites. I haven't seen that in any of the other caves I've been in so far.

Not far past this area the ceiling of the cave got low again, going down to about 3 feet wanted to push on to an area on the map called the Crystal Room. I declined to crawl that far and waited back in the formations for them, cooling off and taking pictures, including a few self portraits. They were gone for about 45 minutes so I took lots of pictures, finally stopped giving off so much steam, and even took a brief nap.

When the others returned, they reported that the Crystal Room was nice, but by no means worth the long crawl involved to get there. Everyone stopped to take some pictures and to snack, and I realized that I had forgotten to put my snacks in my bag. I bummed some power bars from a couple of people, so that blew my low carb diet for the day, but I definitely needed the energy at that moment.

After the break was over, we strolled back to Grand Central and headed down another passage. After some more breakdown climbing, we slid down a rock and reached the stream bed in the cave. The water was not flowing, but it had some large pools which were so clear it was hard to tell where the edge of the water was. Someone spotted a salamander in the water and I managed to get a few decent shots of it. Turns out it was a Tennessee Cave Salamander, and this was the first one that I've seen. There were also a couple of normal crayfish.

This area also had some nice formations, and we stopped for a while to let Jay and I take lots of pictures. The passage is large here, but ends after a few hundred feet at a very low crawl called the Sand Crawl that goes for several thousand feet. We were running short on time, so we decided to head back towards the entrance at this point.

Most of the group made a quick side trip to see what the map labeled the Spires of Guffey, but Don and I declined, sitting on a pile of rocks and talking for about 10 minutes until the others rejoined us. It's very cool to turn all the lights off and just talk in the darkness. I try to spend at least a few minutes in total darkness on every cave trip I go on. I find it to be very cathartic.

So now the push is on for the entrance. I was really starting to get tired by this point, so it was a little slow going on the way out. The last few hundred feet before the entrance had gotten really foggy as well, so picking a route over the breakdown became more of a chore. We exited the cave a little after 6pm, so we spent almost 6 hours underground.

After getting cleaned up, we drove back to Guntersville to meet the owner of the cave, Dan Harbin, so we could give him the key back. Dan's a caver himself and has owned the cave for over 30 years. He goes out of his way to provide easy access to the cave, but still has problems with people occasionally he says. He had to implement a $50.00 deposit for the key because people would just not return it. It's amazing how people just pretty much suck, but I guess we all know that.

We asked Dan about restaurants in the area, and he recommended a couple, including a BBQ place near the 79/431 junction. We gave it a try, but they apparently don't really like to serve sitdown patrons, and it took almost an hour to get our food. We were the only ones in the place, so that's pretty bad. The food was OK, but definitely not worth the wait or the price. We were all so hungry though that we didn't complain too much.

Because of that delay, I didn't get home until almost midnight. The next day my quadriceps were basically blown out. It hurt to walk up steps until Wednesday. I'm going to have to find some hills or long stairwells to start walking up to them into better shape.

I think we maybe saw 1 mile of the cave, so there's still 5 miles or more left to see in it. Next time we'll know the route back to Grand Central better, so we won't waste as much time there. It's definitely a cave that I will go back to.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I accomplished something today for the first time since I got my pedometer. I've walked over 10k steps per day for the last 3 days. Sunday was 12.7k steps, yesterday was 10.4k, and today I've done 11.8k steps.

When I'm walking in the evenings, I have small arguments with myself. I would normally total up how many steps I've averaged for the week and start rationalizing doing less steps tonight. So if I only walked 5k steps today, hey, I've still averaged 9k steps for the last 3 days. The problem with this is that I'm at a plateau on my weight loss. I'm stuck right around 285 lbs and in order push below 280 I'm going to have to up the calories burned, plain and simple.

Fortunately, tonight I slapped down the little voice in my head that was trying to be lazy. The other voice took over. The one that kept calling me a wuss for even thinking of stopping short of 10,000 steps. The one that made me turn around in front of my house and add another 1000 steps after I reached 10k instead of going inside and enjoying the a/c. That voice did get slapped down when when it called me a wuss for taking two Alleve, though. I can only put up with so much of that kind of crap. Heh.

Cave Pic

I don't take too many pictures of myself in a cave, but my friend Morris took this one inside Stephens Gap Cave a few months ago. We climbed up through the small waterfall you see here to explore about 150 more feet of passage behind it. It eventually leads to a 20 foot high dome room with another waterfall that is the source of this water.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Vacation Recovery

We're back this week from over a week in Ormond by the Sea near Daytona Beach, Florida. It was nice, but it was hot and sticky all week, and the place was just covered up this past weekend with NASCAR rednecks. We had no idea there was a race going on until we got there.

I went down this past Saturday to watch the space shuttle launch, but after 5 hours of waiting and a near fight with a short bald man over viewing space along a fence, the launch was scrubbed at the 9 minute mark because of some thunderstorms a few miles from the launch pad.

We ate too much, spent too much, and had lots of drama over the 8 days we were there, but it was worth it and there are lots of pictures to share in the next week or so. Stay tuned for more highlights.