Monday, October 18, 2010

Weird Fortune Cookie Message

Seen this past weekend in a fortune cookie at Swin on The Strip in Tuscaloosa:

"Greed rips the bag."

Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cave #25 - Long Island Saltpeter Cave (Chasing Old Rosy)

In early September, 1863, William S. Rosecrans was doing well in life. He had risen rapidly through the ranks of the US Army and was in command of the Army of the Cumberland. He had recently defeated Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Stones River and during the Tullahoma Campaign, and was now closing in on the city of Chattanooga.

On Sept. 5, 1863, the day before his 44th birthday, Gen. Rosecrans was in extreme northeast Alabama, across the Tennessee River from the town of Stevenson. There was a saltpeter cave in the area and Rosecrans and many of his staff visited the cave that day.

The morning of July 24, 2010, I woke up about 7:30 and was in the process of going through my second snooze button when my cell phone rang. I had originally planned to meet Gerald and Avis Moni at 9:00 to head down to Jackson County, but Gerald wanted to move it up to about 8:45. I said I could probably do that, and I quickly got dressed and finished loading up some things. The night before I had dutifully scrubbed all my gear with antibacterial spray to meet the WNS decontamination protocols.

The SCCi was hosting an open house at their newest cave preserve at Long Island Cove and I was looking forward to some good caving. I pulled up to Shoney's at 8:50, and Avis, Gerald, and Joe Douglas were all ready to go. Gerald had promised we'd stop "somewhere better than Shoney's" to eat, and I was all for it since the last time I had eaten there everything on the breakfast bar tasted like fish from the night before.

Now for the last six months I've been eating right and exercising a lot and have lost 50 lbs. I normally eat a bowl of Kashi Good Friends cereal for breakfast, which has an insane amount of fiber, or I have a quick turkey sandwich on high fiber bread. The point of this is that Gerald picked a small breakfast buffet near Manchester that had lots of greasy food. It was really cheap, but I ate a little too much grease which I wasn't used to at all anymore, which sat on my stomach like a rock the rest of the day. Next time Avis or I will pick the restaurant.

We got to the cave preserve about 11:30. I had a little bit of trouble getting my Civic to the camping area since I initially dismissed the sign pointing out an alternate route for cars vs. trucks. Once we got there, we found Buddy Lane was working the sign-in area and that a fairly sizable group including Marion Smith had just left, headed for the cave. After chatting a bit more we got our gear on and hiked up to the cave.

The cave entrance is about 100 feet up the side of the hill, and has been dug out a bit, but it's still a fairly small opening, as can be seen in the photo below. The entrance had lots of cool air blowing out, which was nice since we'd picked the hottest day of the year to go caving, and even the short hike up to the cave entrance had everyone sweating profusely. After a short rest to cool off, I took off my Swaygo pack and started into the cave, feet first.

Entrance of Long Island Saltpeter Cave
(courtesy of Joe Douglas)

Now up to this point I hadn't looked at the map of the cave yet, so all I knew about it was that it was described by everyone as "mazy." A gate was put on the cave back in 1990, with the cave being pretty much closed since then. The frame of the gate is still present, and it's taller than it is wide, so I had to lay on my side and wiggle my way down through it. Once I slid in, there was passage in front of me, so I headed down it a bit, first crawling, then stooping, then finally standing up before reaching a three-way junction.

I heard Gerald and Avis coming in behind me, so I stopped at the junction and rested a bit. After a few minutes I didn't see them so I yelled back up and asked where they were. It turns out that when I slid in, there was another passage behind my back which I had not seen at all and that was the way Gerald wanted to go. So I went back to the entrance and headed down that way, followed shortly by Joe.

Mazy is definitely the right description for the front of this cave. It alternates between crawling and stooping and turning sideways a lot to get through the passageways. On the map, we were headed towards the room labeled "First Room", and we eventually found it after helping one poor fellow find the entrance who had been wandering around lost for a bit. The cave had a lot of people in it, so every few minutes there would be small conferences of folks comparing notes about which way to go. We'd run into a group, say from Ft. Payne, then we'd see them again 10 minutes later, with both groups having taken separate routes to get to the same place.

The cave itself has a lot of mud on the floor. In fact most of the cave floor is made up of mud. It had about the same consistency of the clay you play with in elementary school, so it actually made the crawling a lot nicer than it could have been. The breakdown also has a lot of mud on it, so it made climbing up those areas a little more tricky.

Eventually we got oriented on the map and headed south, making our way into the "Big Room". This room had a few nice decorations, and a lot of 19th century signatures of Union troops. We caught up to Marion Smith in this room, who was writing down all the signatures he could, and even pointing out a few he recognized.

Gerald and Hatch in the "Big Room", looking West.
(Courtesy of Joe Douglas)

After listening to the always entertaining banter between Gerald and Marion for a while, we headed east and south deeper in the cave, doing some more crawling for a bit before coming to a large room filled with breakdown on one side called the "Avalanche Room". This is about a 70 foot tall pile of breakdown that looks like the leftovers of an avalanche, hence the name. This area of the cave looked like it probably flooded on occasion. We went down another small passageway and crawled up a bit and came into what is called the Register Room.

Hatch, Avis, and Gerald resting in the "Register Room" of Long Island Saltpeter Cave.
(Courtesy of Joe Douglas)

In front of where we're sitting in the above photo, there is a 6 foot climb-up that leads to a 70 foot tall dome. On a rock just past the climb-up are the following signatures:

Signatures of Lt. Col. Calvin Goddard and Maj. Gen. W.S. Rosecrans.
(Courtesy of Joe Douglas)

Lt. Col. Calvin Goddard was born at Norwich, Connecticut on 9 Feb, 1838. By this time he had been with Gen. Rosecrans for sometime and served as Assistant Adjuntant-General and Chief of Staff of the Army of the Cumberland. He resigned from the US Army in November, 1863 after the Battle of Missionary Ridge and returned to civilian life. He passed away in San Francisco, California in 1892. More Info on Goddard

Two weeks after they left these signatures, the Battle of Chickamauga began, the loss of which effectively ended the military career of both these men.

I didn't like the way the climb-up to the signature was exposed, and I'm still a little big to wedge myself into the crack and pull myself up with my arms, so I didn't go right up to the signature, but I could see it clearly by standing at the climb-up.

After resting in the Register Room a bit and letting Gerald squirm around in one of the small passages off of it, we headed back to the entrance, leaving Marion in the room still writing down signatures. We took our time heading out, and continued to run into small groups of cavers wandering around. We exited the cave after about 2.5 hours spent inside. I think in all we saw about 1/3 of the cave, so I definitely want to go back and see the rest of it.

As we came out of the cave, we ran into Lin Guy, who mentioned there was another small cave nearby, the name of which escapes me. We did a little bit of ridge-walking on the way back to the camping area. Lin and another fellow found the cave but didn't go in. He had visited it about 20 years ago. Apparently I walked right by it on my way down the hill. Maybe I can find it next time.

Back at the parking area, we cleaned up a bit and visited with friends. Milo Washington and Andy Zerbe showed up from the Birmingham Grotto, and I finally met Bill Torode after Gerald introduced me to him. There was a quick SCCi meeting then we ate hamburgers and hotdogs before I headed back to Nashville. The cave tired me out pretty good, because I slept for about 11 hours, then woke up on Sunday morning for about an hour then napped again for about 4 hours.

One last note. You have to be a member of the SCCi to visit this cave. Please don't ask me about how to get there or for maps. You'll have to join the SCCi and arrange a permit to visit the area, which is leased by the SCCi from a private land owner. Visit the Long Island Cove Preserve Page for more information.

Also visit Joe Douglas' Flickr Page for more photos from the trip.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hey Hatch, is that a Snake on Your Fence or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Marissa saw two snakes in our yard today, including this rat snake on our fence. He went to the back of the house a few minutes later and I was trying to lift him up with a rake he decided to crawl up into the siding by the back deck.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Truckstop Entertainment

I heard this several months ago while waiting in line at a Subway in a truckstop in north Alabama, but it stuck with me so I thought I'd share.

A young woman enters, stage left.

"Momma! Daddy said for you to get away from the quarter machines! Back up off of 'em!"

CSX Nashville Flood Damage

Here's a picture I took behind my friend Paul's house out in western Davidson county near the Harpeth river. Everything you see was under water this past weekend. The picture quality isn't great, but you can see the large piles of gravel that used to make up the rail bed. Above that you can see the track hanging in mid-air.

Just to the left of this scene is the bridge where the railway crosses the Harpeth. It's obscured a good bit by trees and I didn't want to trudge through the mud to get a better look, but it looks like it's twisted and sagging towards the water. It's going to take some major repair work to get this route working again. This is the CSX line that runs between Nashville and Memphis and it's normally pretty busy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hatch in Your Dreams

This email was waiting for me in my inbox this morning from and old college friend Nate:

So, I recently started some new medication that has me sleeping much deeper than normal, dreaming much more, and having much more vivid recollection of my dreams. Last night, Hatch made an appearance. Through some unlikely combination of factors, Hatch and I ended up at the same Middle/Jr. High school, waiting for our kids to return from some field trip. I first noticed Hatch, when I realized that he was lighting up a Winston in the library adjacent to the lobby area in which I was standing/waiting. At first I couldn't believe it, until I realized that the library WAS a designated smoking area for the school, and everyone else in there was smoking, too. For the record, Hatch appeared to be a svelte 175-180lbs in my dream. We ended up sitting there talking for a while, and then while one of the mothers there wasn't looking, Hatch stole a big bag of chocolate-covered peanuts out of one of the compartments of her baby stroller. I didn't think anything of this, and we continued to talk as Hatch snacked on his newly-stolen deliciousness. Eventually, a commotion ensued behind us, as the mother realized that her peanuts had gone missing. She immediately pegged us as the culprits, at which point I declared that I had no idea what she was talking about, and Hatch stuffed the remainder of the peanuts under a sofa cushion. Investigations began, and soon the peanuts were found in close proximity to Hatch, and the chase was on. It was like the first 20 mins or so of The Fugitive, except that it was Hatch in his spelunking gear, hauling ass through the woods, with an army of flashlight-wielding middle school moms and bloodhounds on his trail. I have no idea what eventually happened, because the sound of Karen's hair dryer coming on woke me up. Hope you made it to freedom, buddy. And I hope that you did some sort of "reach to the heavens through the rain" moment a la The Shawshank Redemption when you got there.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top 10 Things Heff Didn't Accomplish During His Blog Break

Heff recently took a break from blogging after complaining he wasn't able to get enough done due to all the work maintaining a blog involved. Let's look at the Top 10 things Heff was NOT able to get done during his 4 month break, shall we?

10. Uncle Chris and Bamatrav protein samples still under the couch in the basement.
9. Three month supply of Rogaine is still stacked up in the closet.
8. Classic fastback Mustang is still rotting in the basement.
7. Read a book.
6. Workout regularly to get ripped.
5. Spend quality time with Hatch.
4. Get his Photoship 8.0 CE disk returned.
3. Keep Nana out of his flower bed.
2. Keep Bamatrav out of his waterbed.

And the #1 thing Heff didn't accomplish during his break from blogging:

Repairs to the back porch from Wilfred and Hatch walking around on it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


After work today I drove to the downtown YMCA. Parking was a bit of a pain, but I finally sneaked into a spot on the lower side of 10th Avenue. I was working "Pushes" tonight and since I'm just starting out again I'm doing light sets.

12x75 Bench, 12x80 Bench
10x50 Shoulder Press, 10x40 Shoulder Press

I'm going to do triceps presses tonight at home with dummies since the gym was crowded and I was in a hurry.

Next week I'll go up to 3 sets. I did "Pulls" last night at the Hermitage Y.

Then I did about 15 laps on the overhead, padded track, which was about 1.3 miles. That track is so nice I even did two "intervals". With new sneakers and the padded surface, it feels like you're just gliding around.