Thursday, September 27, 2007

back in Columbia, South Carolina

25 Sep 2007, Tuesday. At 4 am I stood naked and panic-stricken on the balcony of the motel 40 feet from the room as the car horn sounded repeatedly following my attempt to lock the car with the remote. By 7 pm I was in Columbia enjoying another Gigantic Titanic Banana Split at Sandy's Famous Hot Dogs. This may be the last Where Is Ron Now post for a while as I intend to stay here until completing the other four volumes of the Rambo Family Tree. (Yes, the galley proofs arrived and are nearly perfect, but will have to go back for correction.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Successful "shakedown cruise"

16 Sep, Sunday: Cousin Cynthia and I are preparing to go hiking somewhere in the Shenandoah National Park today.

13 Sep 2007, Thursday: Today I hiked into Daleville, VA and had breakfast at Mill Mountain. They also serve ice cream and turned my 4-scoop plate order into a banana split. Wowie, zowie. The hike was a complete success and I'm elated and pumped for next years through-hike.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

7 Sept at the Courthouse Cafe in Pearisburg, Virginia

7 September, Friday: I sat here typing until 11 am (for two hours !!) the Courthouse Cafe in Pearisburg, Virginia after about 350 miles of trail, feeling fine and healthy without foot problems or footwear issues (as long as I keep my toenails trimmed and filed to extinction). I spent last night at the Holy Family Hostel here and am resupplied and ready to go ASAP after an inexpensive breakfast here. Bill is the latest of many very nice people whom I've met on this trip. Jeff, Bob, Richard, Robb & Jacqui are most memorable among the others.

On the latest leg of the trip a 35-pound fawn licked my legs & hands, overnighted with us, and followed three of us hikers for two miles.

My body is holding up well and strengthing now that I've reduced my pack weight to 18 pounds + 15 pounds of food for a week and 7 pounds of water due to drought. (Why doesn't that add up the the 37 pounds that the scale read for the whole thing?) I did have one day of shooting pain from my bad knee (cartlidge removed circa Vietnam) which prompted the radical reduction of weight. No further knee pains since, no lower back pains except fleetingly. The legs are MUCH stronger and I'm hiking 13+ miles a day "easily", especially with MORE food (gorp good) and a short afternoon snooze.

Only one more week of hiking until the 14th and I'm due to meet cousin Cynthia in Waynesboro. She is making her first ever research trip - good timing so I can help her.  I have another 93 miles to hike this week, but have been averaging about 13 miles a day "easily", so should not have trouble reaching Troutdale and I-81 by the 14th.

Apparently a brother of one of the Gowdy co-workers will be driving down to his sister's party in late September, so I should be able to make arrangements to meet him for a ride back to Columbia.

25 August, Saturday: Wow.!! Are trekking poles ever worthwhile - not to mention reducing weight. My pack weighed in at 23 pounds here in Damascus, Virginia and I've been able to maintain a brisk walk for several hours at a stretch - yesterday I covered 16 miles (to get to a spring by nightfall for a shower). Thanks, thanks, and thanks again to Robb and Jacqui for the gift of poles. Today's primary objective (now that I've breakfasted, stocked up on food, and collected the package mailed to myself from Kincora) is to buy a new set of hiking sneakers and mail "home" the old boots. I wanted sandals like the Keens that Robb had, but there are none available here. Damascus Eats is a great breakfast place and I'll see what they have to offer for dinner after the new shoes and packages are set to go.

I am in sooooOOO much better shape now that I am awakening with anticipation and planning for earlier morning hikes to avoid mid-day heat (and perhaps catch up on my journal after afternoon naps in shelters).

Fun, fun, fun. I am just delighted that the old body is finally adjusting to these demands although I still have a bit of extra weight around my middle. No telling if I'll lose that "pouch" in the next three weeks or not. I'm looking forward to starting the trail next year ASAP after the trail clears of snow & ice in the Smokey Mountain Nat'l Park.

I had the very best blackberries of the trail to date on the approach to Iron Mountain a couple of days ago. Nothing else of significance in terms of wildlife or companionship to report. Despite the lack of significance, mother nature continues to amaze me with the variety of things, circumstances and adoptations out there. I saw two trees with roots intertwined that looked to be "floating" a foot above ground level.

21 August, Wednesday: Bob and Pat Peoples at Kinkora are another couple of lovely people who host hikers and maintain the AT. I helped install a bridge yesterday and even had time to mail 12.5 pounds back to South Carolina. My pack is probably down to about 30 pounds for the next 45 miles to Damascus, Virginia. I enjoyed nearly a week of moderate distances with Robb and Jacquie since we HAD to stop for tea mornings and mid-day and HAD to stop early enough for Scrabble every evening. (I think Bob won the most games - they are tough competitors.) Now I'm off solo again so might be able to catch up on my "daily journal."

Lots to report and learn about AT hiking for fun and pleasure. 1) hostels and fellow hikers are a lot of fun 2) absolutely NEVER carry more than you need to carry 3) you can mail stuff that you might need ahead to yourself. and more in the next post.

?? Aug: Blueberries and views atop Hump Mountain and Grassy Ridge were marvelous. Robb, Jacquie and I apparently stopped to camp only ten minutes behind Stephen. Fortunately he caught us again after we shuttled ahead to Kinkora.

11 August, Saturday: Richard is an inspiration. He's about five years "ahead" of me, and I'm about five years "ahead" of him. Shelly is also "good people." Today I hope (Hah!) to catch my journal up-to-date, and send ALL the postcards I've been carrying the last 100 miles, so this post will be "short." I don't get any writing done at the hostel because it is much more fun to converse with Richard, and yesterday's food stop did not have Hagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry's, so today I'm bicycling across town to the Walmart for both.

10 August, Friday: in Erwin, Tennessee. The VIEW of the Nolichucky River from the AT overlooks coming into town were terrific !!
After only 10 days on the trail, I've almost forgotten how to type !!
Tonight I'm tent camping at Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel in Erwin, TN. For $6 I also get a shower, up to three shuttles into town and use of a bicycle.
So far so good. My boots are at the Tony Baker's shoe repair. Feet are good, but boot repair will help my heels. I've hiked 100 miles to date, including 70 miles since the last food stop - and I still have a couple of days worth of oats & seeds left. Erwin Buritto is already a favorite place for good food and its sign: "All hippies enter through back door - no exceptions."
No problems worth mentioning although a couple of days were exhausting after poor sleep. It has been hot, so staying "hydrated" has been absolutely necessary. I now fill up to overfull at every spring or stream during the day. Bugs are still no problem - what a refreshing surprise!

To answer a brotherly question: No planning Dean. I just got the Appalachian Trail "Data Book" which tells miles to next spring, shelter, camping spot, road, & groceries. (Thanks to Walt Maurer for that birthday present.) If I'm not accompanying someone else along the trail, I look at the data book to see where to find water next. Late afternoon I look at the Data Book to see where to camp next. Shelters often have picnic tables where I can update my journal easily.

We had the excitement of a bear in camp last night. He had grabbed Richard's pack while my Richard & Robert were getting water. "Supermarket" started yelling & chasing towards the bear as I approached camp. I chased until the bear dropped the pack, so I was a hero for the rest of the day.

6 August, Monday: The GREAT news is that the Bankson book proofs should be on the Gowdy's doorstep by early September - the "design team" conference call proceeded fine from the Camp Mountain summit (4750') with no falderall about signoffs for anything.

4th August, Saturday: Hot Springs, NC. The first 30+ miles of the trail have left me wondering "Why?" Maybe I'll figure it out in the next fifty miles to the next place to buy groceries. For now the important urgency is the laundrymat, ice cream, and a breakfast.

31 July, Tuesday: Donna will drop me off later today at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail with I-40 at the Tennessee border.

29 July, Sunday: I wasn't quite packed and it was somewhat more convenient for Donna to drop me off on her way to the Charlotte airport, so my departure was delayed a couple of days. Whenever a library has internet access I'll update this blog and read Gmail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

South Carolina: last stop before Appalachian Trail

23 July, Wednesday: Blue Bell Ice Cream sale ended yesterday - I'm fatter than usual. Mail arrived - Thanks Clarence. Genealogy CDs mailed. Asset allocation way outta whack, but not in need of any immediate fix. AT departure imminent - like this weekend.

17 July, Thursday: Still in Columbia. Contract signed & sent to publisher. Book sent to publisher. Compost pile turned, trees cut down, weeds pulled, grass mowed. After I finish hedge trimming I'll be caught up on yard work. It has been fun to walk & talk with Dick Richards for an hour every day. I did wash the down sleeping bag with the soap Walt gave me as a birthday present. Good results - more loft than previous three washings. Bye.

11 July, Wednesday: Yesterday I rode about 550 miles from Jim's at Mount Airy, MD to the Gowdy's in Columbia, SC. I stopped under overpasses to avoid rain three times, at a Motel 8 long enough to sew a patch on my pants, and was drenched by an unavoidable downpour only once. It was very nice to be back on my comfortable Beemer, but the bike is rattling uphill and hammering on long hills - Methinks I have a rod knock. Oh well, no worries until after I hike.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

North Carolina motorcycling trip with friends

6 July: Safely back to Jim's in Mount Airy, MD before noon. Coffee and breakfast help, a shower will feel great. My facial skin is toooo hottttt with windburn. (Sorry Pam, but hoooot and haaat don't read right.)
Last night at dark a wicked looking storm with massive, turbulent black clouds approached as I neared Front Royal at the end of Skyline Drive. I had no tent, camped on a fire road, and fell asleep instantly - exhausted. Soon a loud clap of thunder awakened me and it rained intensely for 15 minutes. The thunder gave me only enough time to put on my motorcycling rain suit and to zip the bedroll protector (thanks Walt) in total darkness. I set the bedroll onto the bike seat and covered it all with a plastic tarp. Then I stood in the cold black rain dressed in only the rain suit, shoes & helmet until the dripping stopped. A noise in the dark reminded me that I had seen a big black bear a few miles earlier.

5 July: 500 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway should qualify me for "Iron Butt" honors, especially on Jim's DR650. I didn't ride aggressively, but enjoyed the handling, the road, and the wildlife = baby bear streaking across the road in front of me with mama scowling from the roadside; one BIG bear who ambled along ahead of me and up a hillside (he took up a whole lane, so I stopped respectfully); one mama deer with a single spotted fawn; a repeat of mama deer with fawn; three turkeys alongside the road; one overstuffed turkey flying up into a roadside tree - or it may have been a jumbo jet struggling to take off without a runway; and WAY TOO MANY deer at the edge of the road at dusk.
Sadly I helped to pull out of the woods the big Suzuki touring bike (Victory?) belonging to an injured Canadian motorcyclist. No friends nearby, no cell phone, probably no US insurance, right hand & arm limp & useless. He just wanted to sit & think, so I left him in peace with best wishes. Fifteen miles later I saw a Park Ranger hustling southwards.

4 Jul: Chris at Acme Motorcycles in Ashville, NC replaced the punctured tube for me today, July 4th. What a Godsend. It deflated entirely 20 miles north of town on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the first bike by was a Suzuki V-Strom 650. The owner is delighted with it and prefers it to any BMW, good to know since Jim strongly recommended that bike to me. Several very nice people hereabouts deserve thanks and appreciation for being sympathetic and helping me with good advice, especially Gale who recommended Acme over breakfast at the nearby Waffle House. $200 tow, $100 room at Motel 6 for 2 nights (fun staff there); $60 motorcycle shop pickup; $35 flat rate tire change; and $10 for new tube. (RideLikeRon carries tools for that repair, so expense would have been $0.50 for tire patch. More costly on borrowed bike without tools & no tire patch kit.)
Any motorcycle trip that ends with the motorcyclist still alive is a good trip.
Any incident that only costs money is cheap.

1 Jul: It has been a good several days with Walt & Pam, Lee & Tammy, Jim and 11 other motorcycling guys & girls. We've been camping at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge campground in Stecoah, NC and have ridden Deal's Gap, the (Tail of the Dragon) once. (Pictures to prove it are linked on my web site.) Lots of good riding hereabouts. Today most of the guys returned home, but Jim stayed another day. Walt & Pam; Lee & Tammy; Bill & Cheryl stayed until Tuesday.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Aha, Hurrah, the trip has begun

26 Jun: Jim and I are packed & ready to leave Mt. Airy. I'll left around noon and rode Jim's DR650 Suzuki, a dirt bike with a tiny windshield, a vastly different, upright riding position, and a lot more torque. It will be fun, fun, fun. Jim has to work until early afternoon and will suffer through the heat of the day. Our target for the day is Waynesboro at the end of Skyline Drive, but I may continue further if the riding position is comfortable for me. Wednesday we'll ride the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park where we meet up with another dozen good friends for a motorcycling celebration until July 4th.
I'm leaning toward hiking the southern chunk of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia starting in South Carolina although I could hike south from Maryland. shows that the Bankson volume is finally totally ready to send to the publisher and today's final chore is to read & sign the publisher's contract (but didn't quite get it done).
23 Jun: It was sooooo very comforting and pleasurable to again arrive safely at Jim's in Mt. Airy. Elwood and Maya are Jim's wonderfully enthusiastic and well-behaved dogs. Within fifteen minutes of arrival, Jim convinced me to get a "new" bike, probably Lee's GS. This is really big.
20 Jun: The four days with Lee were delightful. Jack and Alice are such nice people in Marietta. The AAA office helped me get a proof of insurance card. And the state of Florida did get my renewed licence to me eventually.
16 Jun, Saturday: After coffee and an afternoon of genealogy research at the Hudson Library, I rode to Dover, Ohio to see Lee, Tammy, Britany, Cliff, Hope and Joe. (June 24th is Hope's birthday.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Jun 14th 2007, I'm still in Cleveland since cousin Gloria has a nasty case of poison ivy in her eyes. Since there is more to do on the rock wall, I'll stay a while longer.

Jun 5th 2007 I'm in Cleveland, house sitting for Walt & Pam. They are due home on the 9th, but the rock wall needs more work and a little "adult supervision."