Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Requiescat in pace

Mok would have turned 39 years old today, but he didn't. This Pipart Bwow is for you, buddy.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Well, apparently for the first time in my life I've actually completely lost my wallet. We've torn the house up and both cars and it just seems to be gone. Argh. Fortunately there wasn't that much in it, but I do have to replace my driver's license, social security card, and one credit card. I called the credit card company this morning and no one has used it since I lost it, so apparently it wasn't stolen. I ordered a replacement license online and that only cost me $8.00, but it may take two weeks to get here.

It still sucks, since that wallet had a lot of life left in it and it's only the third wallet I've ever owned since I turned15 about 24 years ago. I used my first wallet for over 15 years, although admitedly that may have been a little too long. Heh. I just know once I get everything replaced the old wallet is going to turn up. Sigh.

Cave #15 - Gamble Cave

This trip actually happened back on September 30. I was supposed to go to TAG that weekend, but I had been feeling ill earlier in the week and decided not to go on Thursday morning. Friday though, I felt great and was starting to regret not going to TAG since I had really wanted to get some caving in that weekend.

I remembered that Ken Oeser and Robert Van Fleet were planning a mapping trip to Bear Hole Cave in the Savage Gulf on Saturday, so I called Friday night and made plans to meet up with them the next morning. We met up at the Shoney's and headed toward the Savage Gulf area where the cave is located.

Normally access is restricted to this cave, since it is off the trails in the area, but Ken has permission since he's in the process of mapping it. Once we got to the ranger station though, we found there was a problem. It seems some property that they drive across to get closer to the cave was recently purchased from Bowater Inc. and is leased for hunting. There's a verbal agreement with the park to let people drive across it, but they decided they wanted to get something in writing so for now they're not letting non-hunting groups have access. We could have hiked in from the ranger station, but that would have added 8 miles total to the trip so we decided to try some other caves.

Ken and Robert debated while we drove towards Sparta, and we actually tried to go to Wells Cave, but the lady we asked permission of didn't really want us to go in the cave because they're getting their water out of it and she thinks the entrance might not be very safe.

So then Ken decided we'd try to find a small cave near Sparta, Gamble Cave, that is in Dr. Barr's book "Caves of Tennessee." We parked Robert's car near where we thought it was and hiked through some really dense brush and up a small hill and walked right to the cave. We didn't have our gear with us, but I had a flashlight and we went just inside to see if it was worth checking out, then we walked back to the car and got all of our normal gear.

The entrance for Gamble Cave is about half way up the hill in some light woods. There are signs of people sifting and digging there, including a sifting tray. They're probably looking for Indian artifacts, although the thickness of the mud there would probably make it slow going. The cave is short, probably 300 feet or less, but it does have a few nice decorations. It goes back about 100 feet then the rest of the cave is climbing over breakdown, most of which is covered in small popcorn which makes it rough on your clothing.

Near the back Ken and Robert found the remains of what might have been a still, which is apparently a common occurence in caves in Tennessee. We also saw some cave beetles and lots of the usual cave crickets. We spent about half an hour inside, with Robert pushing some really small holes in the breakdown but not really finding much that was interesting.

As we were leaving the cave I was starting to feel a little ill again, so I had them drop me off back in Nashville while they went on and did some more caving elsewhere nearby. I think they actually found a cave that wasn't on the TCS that afternoon, so I missed out on that.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When Drunken Shriners Attack

My maternal grandfather, Frederick Melton (F.M.) Strother, was the kind of man who had numerous stories swirling around him for most of his life. He lived his long life to the full extent, and people either loved him or hated him for the most part. Some of the stories about him I can't really repeat on a PG-13 blog, but I still occasionally hear new tales about him.

This past weekend we were down in Shelby County, Alabama for the Stinson family reunion. My grandmother, F.M's wife, was a Stinson and I met a lot of older cousins I've never really gotten to talk to much before. One of the distant cousins I met was originally a Carden whose mother grew up in Westover before she moved away in the 1930's. She related the following story to me.

Sometime in the mid-50's, she and her mother were riding the Trailways bus down to Westover to visit her grandmother who lived on Sewell Hill. As the bus was entering The Narrows, which is a long, extremely curvy section of what is now Old Highway 280, a convertible with four men pulled up alongside the bus.

The men were obviously drunk, and they were all wearing Shriner's hats. One was waving a pistol and actually climbed onto the running board that went down the side of the bus. The driver had ordered everyone down on the floor, and actually opened the door of the bus. The man stuck his arm through the door, and the driver quickly shut it again, slamming it on the man's arm. The man then fell off the bus, and the driver sped up and left the men behind.

About 10 miles later they pulled up to Strother's Trading Post in Westover, which is the store my Maw-maw and Granddaddy ran. Her grandparents didn't have a phone and they were all shook up, so she said F.M. agreed to drive them the short distance up to the house.

The house was typical of that time and had a circular driveway that ran behind the house and around the well in the backyard. When they got there, my cousin's grandmother tried to offer F.M. some money, but he refused. They started arguing about it a little and the grandmother went back into the house while F.M. got back into his car. When he saw her coming out of the house waving some bills around, he cranked up the car and started heading down the driveway around the back of the house. The grandmother cut across by the well and threw the money in the open window of his back seat while he was driving past. She said F.M. was laughing the entire time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Smokeless Hatch

Despite a determined effort by Paul Clemmons and his toadies in Big Tobacco, yesterday I celebrated the sixth anniversary of being smoke free. I smoked a cigarette in the afternoon of October 15, 2000 in the parking deck of Cat Financial in Nashville, then I quit. I started smoking when I was a freshman in college during final exams my first semester in December of 1986.

Hopefully I quit before too much permanent damage was done. During the 14 years I did smoke, I quit twice for over a year before starting again. Once Heff and I had a bet going to see who would quit the longest. We made an agreement to have a cigarette at the U2 concert in Birmingham, but Heff watched me smoke and then refused to join in. Of course, he's still smoking Reds to this day and is buying his ticket for the emphysema train.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Weekly Wrapup

I've settled into a workout rhythm for the last 3 weeks or so, and the results are starting to show. Due to work, kids, and other concerns, I can only really make it into the gym two days a week right now; on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night. So what I've been doing is just trying to flat wear myself out those two days.

I start by warming up with a walk all the way across the YMCA parking lot. They have a large lot and I can walk almost 1/4 of a mile by parking at the far end of it. I'm constantly amazed to see people circling and circling around the front of the parking lot trying to find a spot close to the door. I think they're somehow missing the point, but hey people think I'm weird so who knows?

Next I spend 35 minutes on the treadmill. I've been doing intervals for the first mile for the last month or so. Today I went below 14 minutes on my first mile, completing it in 13:51. Not too shabby, at least for me. This time last year I could barely walk a mile. A few months ago I was happy to beat 18 minute miles.

Next I rest for about 10 minutes and rehydrate, then I hit the machines. Today I did 4 sets of everything, which is the biceps, triceps, quads, and hamstrings. I keep meaning to add some shoulder shrugs, but I didn't today. My chest still isn't feeling quite right, so I'm avoiding benchpresses or anything that puts stress on the sternum area for now.

For the seven days from last Sunday, I averaged 7,446 steps a day on the pedometer. I went over 10k on three days. Next weekend I'll be going to at least one cave, probably in Georgia since I'm going to TAG on the Mountain, the annual fall caving gathering. I'm not sure what cave I'm going to yet. I may try to go to multiple small caves this weekend since I'm in better shape than the last time I went caving.