On the Grid – March 11, 2017 – Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus

I’ve been waiting for a year to write this entry. Yesterday I finally conquered my 366 Grid. One year ago yesterday, ConnieLou (and her doctors) conquered breast cancer.

Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus!

We came, We saw, We conquered!

You may remember from my March 13, 2016 entry that I did not find a cache on March 11, 2016…the day of ConnieLou’s cancer surgery. I had intentions of finding a quick cache sometime during the day while going out to grab a bite to eat…but that didn’t happen (and that’s OK). Although it wasn’t confirmed for a week, ConnieLou, with the help of her surgeon, conquered breast cancer that day.

I had to wait a year to finish up my grid…but that gave me time to plan, to select a special cache worthy of commemorating both conquests. But I didn’t really need the time. It only took a few minutes to think of the perfect cache. The answer was obvious.

That special cache had to be at a location special to both of us. Like near the place we first met, the place we first kissed, the place we took moonlit walks, the place we both graduated in 1985. The location was obvious…Young Harris College.

But it wasn’t to happen quite like that.

Nope. Not at all.

Plans got changed late last fall when I discovered that the cache that I had in mind had been archived and was no more. Even worse, there were no other caches on the YHC campus that I haven’t already found and logged. I contemplated maybe using another nearby cache but there really weren’t any nearby that were in a location quite as sentimental.

ConnieLou provided a possible solution when she started looking over the calendar and realized that Ashley’s and Jenna’s spring breaks overlapped by a weekend and suggested that we go to the beach. As it turned out, Ashley and her boyfriend, Austin, were planning to go to St. Simons Island near Brunswick, Georgia for a few days over their break and since St. Simons is just a couple of hours north of Flagler College in St. Augustine, St. Simons became the destination of choice. I took a look at the cache map for St. Simons on the Geocaching.com website and saw that there were quite a few caches on the island and in the surrounding area. Then, while reading the cache descriptions, I discovered that there was a cache located at the St. Simons Lighthouse…at the top of the lighthouse…129 steps up from ground level (Lighthouse Keepers Lament, GCHAGX). The choice was obvious.

Then the waiting began.

March 10 finally rolled around and we all were finally on our way to St. Simons. As the day progressed I began to think I might have to wait another year to fill my March 11 spot on my grid. We got a late start leaving the house and had some car troubles on the way but fortunately everything came together and we made it to the cottage we’d rented for the weekend.

We woke Saturday morning to a beautiful day. I enjoyed a morning pipe on the screened porch then a leisurely breakfast before getting ready and heading over to the lighthouse.

We paid for our tickets, checked out the lighthouse museum then headed to the top…climbing all 129 stairs…

There were landings and windows every twenty to thirty steps so we stopped to enjoy the views and take a picture or two…

ConnieLou wasn’t feeling up to the climb so she found a place to sit in the sunshine and cheer us on from the bottom…

Once at the top we spent a few minutes checking out the view then remembered we were there to find a cache. I made a trip around the top of the light looking for a hiding spot on the outside and was just about back to the door when I heard Austin say “Hey, is this it?” Sure enough it was. I signed the log and Jenna took a couple of pictures before Austin tucked it back into its hiding spot.

After a few more minutes of enjoying the view we headed back down to spend the day piddling around on the island and chilling on the beach…literally…hey, it’s still March after all…

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Posted in 366 Grid, Geocaching, St Simons Island, St Simons Lighthouse | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yep, I survived my 52nd trip around the sun and have started another. When ConnieLou asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had to think about it for a little bit. There’s almost always some little gadget or piece of gear lurking in the back of my mind but for once I was drawing a blank. As I was watching a hammock camping video on YouTube a few weeks back it hit me that what I really wanted was a down underquilt that would carry me through a southern winter and keep me comfortable at temperatures 10 to 20 degrees colder than my DIY Climashield underquilt could handle.

I already knew that there are plenty of options available from small ‘cottage’ manufacturers so I began to do my research to figure out which suited my needs and wants which included goose down fill, full length (72 inches) and a 20-degree (F) rating. All in all, finding an underquilt that I liked that met my criteria wasn’t hard at all. There were several that fit that bill but when I got down into the details I found that Hammock Gear’s Incubator 20 grabbed my interest.

tag

For the most part, Hammock Gear’s products are made to order and one can choose between fabric weights and fabric colors for the inner and outer shells and can also request additional down fill if desired. But…they also have a few already completed pieces on their website that can be had at a bit of a discount if you’re not picky about colors. Luckily, they had an Incubator 20 with a black outer shell and Mediterranean blue inner shell which was pretty close to what I wanted.

I placed my order and in a few days found a large box on my front porch. Fortunately it arrived on a Friday so I wouldn’t have to wait to hook it up and try it out. ConnieLou was kind enough to come out in the woods in the dark to help me adjust the suspension and tighten the cinches at the ends. I knew that a 45 degree night wouldn’t be much of a test for a 20 degree quilt so I compensated a little bit by wearing just a pair of soft shorts, a t-shirt and a light pair of socks…and stayed toasty warm.

Fast forward a week…the weather prognosticators were predicting that a cold front would move through our area yesterday that would bring a little rain and much cooler weather. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to give the incubator a better test.

I hung up my hammock, quilts and tarp in my usual spot…

incubator-2

…and pitched my tarp in ‘porch mode’…

porch-mode

Of course I had to spend a little while confirming that my hammock, quilts and tarp were hung properly and admired the view from my ‘porch’…

test-drive

view

Once bedtime finally rolled around I pulled on a thin fleece shirt, a pair of flannel lounge pants and a loose fitting pair of wool socks and grabbed a fleece balaclava to keep my noggin warm then headed out back…

balaclava

My little thermometer that lives in my ridgeline bag told me that the temperature was 40 degrees when I crawled into my hammock and pulled up my topquilt…

40

By daybreak it was 31 outside my quilts but I was nice and toasty warm inside and in no big hurry to get up…

31

morning

Unfortunately it seems like we may be just about finished with winter here except for another cold snap or two. Guess that means I’ll get to spend the next few months figuring out how warm I can go with combinations of the Incubator and various top quilts before having to switch to a lighter underquilt.

Posted in Backpacking, Camping, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hammock Gear, Hammock Gear Incubator, Hammock Gear Underquilt, Incubator 20 | 2 Comments

Double, Double Toil and Trouble…

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…

What may be the most memorable line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth popped into my head as I was boiling a little water with my new Solo Stove.

Wait…new Solo Stove?

Yep…got a new toy to play with for Christmas! Apparently I was a good boy this year…that or I really have someone snowed…not sure which.

First things first, let’s establish what this entry is and what it isn’t. What it is: it’s simply my first impressions of the stove. What it isn’t: a thorough product review. Let’s face it, trying to do an actual review of a product based on one use, and not even a use in ‘real-world’ conditions, would be foolish. Want a real review? Let me play with it for a year, maybe two. Let me boil some more water and actually cook a few meals in the woods and then maybe I’ll get interested on putting together a real review. But for now, let’s stick with first impressions…

So…what is this Solo Stove that I speak of? A Solo Stove Lite…

1-stove-bag2-stove
According to the Solo Stove website, a Solo Stove is a “wood burning stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more complete, efficient and cleaner burn.” One could simply say that it’s a hobo stove on steroids but that would be a major understatement. Without going into a lot of detail about how it’s made and how it works, calling it a double-walled, stainless steel, wood burning, gasifier stove would be a bit more accurate, if not a mouthful.

Are there other similar wood burning stoves? Sure, the Toaks Titanium Wood Burning Stove and the Bushbuddy come to mind quickly and a Google for ‘wood gasifier stove’ search tells me that there are others that can be purchased. Don’t want to buy one? Well, there are also quite a few how-to’s out there that one can use to make their own.

Back to first impressions…

The weather is beautiful here in Georgia this weekend and I decided that it was time to give the Solo Stove a try. I spent a few minutes picking up small sticks and twigs in the woods back behind the house and breaking them into short pieces…

3-sticks

Just in case someone might think I’m foolish to fire up a wood burning stove on a unprotected wood deck rail, I’m going to bust your bubble…I didn’t. Thus the paver stone…

4-stone

Loading the stove up with wood is a little counterintuitive. Usually when building a fire one starts with their tinder then adds wood over the tinder progressing to larger and larger pieces. According to the literature that came with the stove, loading the stove is just the opposite, larger pieces on the bottom then smaller pieces and tinder on the top…

5-loaded
6-cotton

Counterintuitive or not, it worked…

7-flame

Once the fire was going good, I placed a cook pot (a 10cm IMUSA mug) filled with water on top of the stove and began feeding it more wood to see how long it would take to get to a rolling boil…

8-cook-pot

Eight(ish) minutes later, water, boiling hot…

9-boil

Initially I was thinking of adding a list of Pros and Cons at this point, but as I began to think through the possibilities it occurred to me most of the Pros have downsides and most of the Cons have upsides so maybe a few general thoughts might be better.

Cost: It ain’t cheap. The Solo Stove Lite retails for $99. As of the date of writing this entry, it listed on the Solo Stove website and on Amazon for $69. Considering a MSR Pocket Rocket retails for about $40 and a Jet Boil (stove only) retails for $50, $69 isn’t bad.  Also consider that one will not have to buy fuel for this stove so the overall cost essentially diminishes over time.

Ease of use: It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ item like an alcohol stove or a canister stove. It takes some tending. But, if you can make a fire and don’t mind tending it for a few minutes as your water boils or your food otherwise cooks (or if you’re just a pyro like me) you’ll be in good shape.

Cook time: It ain’t fast. Your Pocket Rocket, JetBoil or favorite knock-off will boil a couple of cups of water in around two minutes and most alcohol stoves can do the job in about six. About twelve minutes elapsed from the time I lit the tinder to the time I had water boiling. If you like to hike from dawn to dusk and just want to cook a quick meal before turning in, you might want to consider other options. If you’re like me and aren’t concerned about putting in a lot of miles and enjoy having some time to chillax at the end of the day then a wood stove might be a good option.

Space/Bulk: Own its own, it’s bulky and will take up some space in your pack but if it can be nested in a cook pot it doesn’t take up any extra space. Solo Stove offers a 900ml cup/cook pot that the Solo Stove Lite will nest in (they also make pots that the next two larger size stoves will nest in). I don’t think I’d be too off the mark if I said that there probably are other pots available that it would nest in as well.

Weight: At 9 ounces it’s not exactly light.  Consider that a canister stove and fuel canister stove will weigh a little over 7 ounces with a full fuel canister.  Also consider that you’re not carrying fuel.  Not a lot of difference really.

Clean-up: Simple. Let it cool down, dump out the ashes and put it back in its stuff sack. Yes, it’s going to leave some soot on your cook pot but because combustion is more complete in a gasifying stove, it won’t be nearly as bad as cooking over an open fire or a non-gasifying wood stove. Regardless, put the stove and cookpot in a stuff sack and it’s not that much of a problem anymore.

Personally, I think I’m going to get along with the Solo Stove quite well and will be picking up the 900 ml cook pot to go with it in the near future.  And, OK, I’ll admit it…I just like playing with fire.

As always, these are my thoughts. Your mileage may vary…

Posted in Backpack Stove, Backpacker Stove, Backpacking, Camping, Gasifier Stove, Gasifier Wood Stove, Solo Stove, Solo Stove Lite, Wood Stove | 5 Comments

PSA: Help Prevent Wildfires

Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap

As many may know by now, there are an alarming amount of forest fires burning in North Georgia, North Carolina and East Tennessee. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of fires have broken out throughout the area. The dry summer and lack of usual rain in Autumn has turned our woods into a tinder box. The Chattahoochee National Forest, which envelopes the entire AT in Georgia, has had a camp fire ban placed on it until mid January of 2017. It is now illegal to build or maintain a fire due to the extremely likely possibility that it can get out of control. Camp stoves are excluded from these restrictions but it is still massively important that these guidelines are followed for the safety of recreational area users and our forests.

cw1sh34wgaac1kr The Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness has burned more that 10,000 acres of forest so far.

High winds have…

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I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was…

“I ain’t as good as I once was, I’ve got a few years on me now…“

The line from Toby Keith’s song As Good As I Once Was is resonating kinda loudly with me right now. I spent the weekend hiking and camping on the Pine Mountain Trail with Ashley and her dog Cooper and now I’m one hurtin’ pup. We had fun but having fun can be painful sometimes, especially if you’re not in the greatest shape. I haven’t spent as much time bashing around the woods this year as I had hoped to. Rather than going into why, let’s just say that life got in the way and leave it at that.

Ashley and Cooper were heading home from Athens for the weekend and ConnieLou had a shopping and lunch date planned with Linda and Charlene, friends from YHC. I’ve been wanting to start hiking the Pine Mountain Trail for a while so I asked Ashley if she wanted to go and take Cooper. She did so Saturday morning we packed up, loaded up and headed down the road. We made a quick stop at the Whistlin’ Pig Café in Pine Mountain to pick up a couple of barbeque sammiches for lunch then headed over to the FDR State Park office to pick up our backcountry permit, parking pass and a couple of trail maps.

office

And then it was on to the trailhead at the Molly Hugger Hill parking lot…

pmt

molly-hugger

We ate our sammiches in the parking lot, then unloaded our gear and got ready to head off to the Big Knot campsite, a little over three miles down the trail.

packs

hikersme

At the park office we learned that there was a fire ban in effect along the trail (OK, this wasn’t exactly unexpected) so I was able to leave a couple of things in the car that we wouldn’t need.

fire-ban

Once on the trail we found the Pine Mountain Trail to be very well marked. Not only was the trail itself marked…

signs

blue-blaze

There were also mileage markers along the trail and each of the campsites were marked…

mile-markers

big-knot-sign
The section of trail that we hiked, between trail miles 7.8 and 11.1, passed mostly through hardwood forests…

trail-1

woods

There were plenty of rocky places along the trail but the worst, and by far most interesting was Rattlesnake Bluff…

rattlesnake-bluff

If I’d really been thinking I would have planned out hike so that we were walking toward the east in the afternoon and to the west on our way out Sunday morning…but I wasn’t so we had the sun in our eyes…

afternoon-woods

Oh well…

We found a few caches along the trail…

cache

And Cooper got to splash around in the creeks that we crossed…

creek-pup

There were plenty of tiny waterfalls to be seen…

tiny-falls

Unfortunately there weren’t too many scenic views along this stretch trail but the few we had were pretty nice…

view

Once at our campsite we hung our hammocks. With no rain in sight we decided to forego hanging up our tarps and sleep under the stars, easily one of our best decisions…

camp

Ashley fixed Cooper a place to sleep but he decided he needed a little hammock time too…

cooper-blanket

cooper-hammock

Once our camp was situated we set about cooking supper and spending some time relaxing…

cooking-supper

Dark seems to come early in the woods and by 8:00 were perfectly happy to settle into our hammocks for the night.

When darkness comes early, so does daylight…

morning

By 8:00 or so we were packed up and hiking back out to the car…

hiking-out

Another fun, if not tiring, weekend in the books.

For more information about the Pine Mountain Trail, visit the Pine Mountain Trail Association’s website at http://www.pinemountaintrail.org.

Posted in Backpacking, FDR State Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Georgia, Georgia State Parks, Pine Mountain Trail | 3 Comments

St. Augustine Strong

I debated on the title for this entry. I had three or four possible titles in mind but I kept coming back to two, “Resilience” and “St. Augustine Strong”. Ultimately I decided to let Jenna make the call.

Here’s the deal…

We spent the weekend in St. Augustine with Jenna for Flagler College’s ‘Family Weekend’ festivities. Maybe the little light has come on in your head and now you’re thinking “St. Augustine, wasn’t that the town we saw so much news coverage about when Hurricane Matthew sideswiped Florida’s Atlantic coast? Wasn’t Flagler College the school where all the flood water was rushing in the open door and down the stairs? Wasn’t St. Augustine the town where we saw the news footage of the people trapped in the hotel and all of the pumpkins from the church floating down the street?” Yes to all of the above. Now you’re also thinking “But that was just two weeks ago, how can St. Augustine be back up and running? Are businesses open? Is it safe? How can Flagler possibly be hosting their Family Weekend this soon after the storm?”

From our point of view, St. Augustine’s story is less about the storm itself but a story of the resilience of people of St. Augustine, strong people…St. Augustine Strong.

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we rolled into town. Given that Flagler decided to go ahead with Family Weekend as planned and not postpone for a few weeks was encouraging. I read a few St. Augustine-related blogs and FaceBook pages these days and was hopeful that we’d find things in relatively good shape in downtown St. Augustine, in Old Town and in the Historic District and, in general, they were. Most businesses were open, though some might have been missing some flooring or drywall. A few were still closed but planned on reopening later this month or next. Only a handful of businesses were damaged to the point that they couldn’t reopen or that reopening wasn’t financially feasible. Bear in mind, we’re talking about St. Augustine proper, not St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach or the rest of the beachfront that bore the brunt of the storm.

Care to see a few examples of what we saw as we wandered around town?

Piles of debris that included ruined furniture, bedding, clothing and other household items and roll-off dumpsters were still found in many locations and ServePro and Service Master trucks and vans were common sights…

chairs

servepro

The flood waters took a toll on lawns, landscaping and trees as well as the buildings in town…

grass

And then there were places one would be hard pressed to be able to tell that much had happened. Do you remember the video of the floodwater rushing into an open door on the Flagler Campus?

flood-door

Fortunately that basement room was just used for storage. The door isn’t completely fixed but that basement room is now dry…and empty…its contents were moved out to dry and allow the room to be dried.

basement-stuff

The water was up to the tops of the hedges in this plaza across the street from Flagler…

lightner-plaza

Not anymore.

We walked over to St. George Street to see what was happening and things seemed to be fairly normal and busy as ever for a Saturday afternoon…

st-george

Even the local favorite popsicle shop was up and running…despite missing its flooring…

the-hyppo

Remember the news photos of the Halloween pumpkins that escaped from the churchyard at the Methodist Church and floated down King Street or into the restaurant parking lot across the street? They’d been corralled and were back in their proper places.

methodist-pumpkins

We ended up bringing one home.

I wish I could say that all is as rosy in St. Augustine as it might seem in this blog entry but to tell the truth, there are folks that are still hurting. There are a few businesses that were lost and many faced losses that will take time to recover. Many lost their possessions and there were some homes that may or may not be salvaged and again, I haven’t even touched on the beachfront.

The thing that really stuck out to me about what happened in St. Augustine in the aftermath of Matthew wasn’t covered by the news. It isn’t the damage that was caused by the storm and it’s really not the extent of the recovery to date. The thing that really stuck out was captured by social media…FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. It was the people of St. Augustine working together, despite any differences they might have had, to clear debris and to make the city inhabitable again, it was the utility linemen working to restore power and vital communications links, it was groups of college students volunteering to help out wherever they could once they were allowed back on campus. It was the resilience of the people of St. Augustine.

#staugustinestrong

Posted in Flagler, Flagler College, Florida, Hurricane Matthew, Saint Augustine, St. Augustine, staugustinestrong | 1 Comment

I Think She Likes College…

With six weeks of class and two hurricanes under her belt, I think Jenna likes college life.  Read on…

On Sunday afternoon, we went over to my cousin Lori’s house to celebrate me and Ashley’s birthdays. As we sat down to eat, the subject of my classes being cancelled came up. I said something to the effect of I was disappointed that class continued to be cancelled. To the my cousin, Andrew, asked in […]

via Hurrication 2016: The Aftermath  — What Lies Within

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Exactly What Are You Trying Say?

One of my friends posted this meme on Facebook and tagged me.

smartass

I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to say…

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The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest…

Ready for some more geocaching? How about a geocaching event this time around?

First a little background…

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you’re probably familiar with Woodbury, the fictitious sanctuary town controlled by The Governor and his followers. You also may know that the Woodbury scenes were actually filmed in the west central Georgia town of Senoia. What you might not know is that there is a real town named Woodbury which is also located here in west central Georgia, and that the real Woodbury has its own ties to The Walking Dead as scenes from several episodes were filmed nearby.

So how do you tie the real town of Woodbury, geocaching and The Walking Dead together? With The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest of course!

zombie-free-zone

The Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, with the help of local geocachers put together a series of twelve caches in and around Woodbury for the quest. The caches were focused on The Walking Dead filming locations, historic sites and other local points of interest.

Now for the fun stuff…

This is how it went down. The Chamber of Commerce & Tourism kicked off the quest this past Sunday with The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest Kick-off Event. Over three hundred geocachers and zombiefans/would-be geocachers converged on Lake Meriwether Park in Woodbury for the event. Cachers signed the event log at the check-in pavilion then had some time to buy an event t-shirt, catch up with friends, grab a bite of lunch from one of a couple of local food trucks or even get zombified by a make-up artist from The Walking Dead production before the caches went live on Geocaching.com.

check-in-table

Around 12:30 the caches went live and the quest passports and pages with additional cache info were distributed and the horde of zombies, err, geocachers dispersed to begin searching for the dozen caches.

As expected, the quest took us to a number of interesting locations including cemeteries and local historic churches like Jones Chapel located just north of Woodbury (Jones Chapel, GZ6QDQ)…

jones-chapel

We visited a peach orchard and farm store and sampled some peach ice cream (Peach Trees Galore, GC6QDQ2)…

fitzgeralds

Who knew that peach growing is a big deal in Meriwether County? I sure didn’t but I’m glad I know now!

We visited Red Oak Bridge, one of the thirteen remaining covered bridges in Georgia…another ‘who knew’ location (Red Oak Bridge, GC6QDNP)…

red-oak-bridge

I’ll have to admit that I had a bit of a fright at Red Oak Bridge. After signing the log and stamping my passport I began to walk toward the bridge. I was looking around wasn’t paying much attention to the bridge itself. When I finally turned my attention to the bridge I saw this:

walkers

Was it a crowd of walkers crossing the bridge and blocking my escape? Nope, just a group of cachers making their way to the cache.

Of course I can’t go without mentioning one of the filming locations for The Walking Dead that were included in the quest (Savior’s Compound, Season 6, Episode 12, GC6QDP4)…

dishes

Once I visited all twelve caches, signed the logs and stamped my passport, I headed back to the check-in table to turn in my passport and collect my commemorative trackable tag…

tag

OK, time out. What’s this business about a passport? It’s pretty simple…each individual cacher or each team of cachers was given a ‘passport’. Each quest passport had a dozen features (in this case zombie body parts and weapons) that correspond to a stamp in each of the cache containers. In order to receive the trackable tag at the end of the day, each of the dozen features on the passport must be stamped with the corresponding stamp in order to prove that one visited and found each of the caches.

So now you’re interested in completing The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest but you missed the kick-off event? No problem…the kick-off event was just what it says it was…a kick-off event…you can still do the quest and even collect your own commemorative trackable tag. All you have to do is visit the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism office at 1 Broad Street, Warm Springs, Georgia between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Saturday to pick up passports and cache information and then drop off your completed passport at the same location. If you’re not able to drop off your completed passport you can mail it to P.O. Box 9, Warm Springs, Georgia 31830 with $5 for shipping and handling and the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism folks will be glad to mail your trackable tag to you.

Oh, just a little heads-up… Ms. Carolyn McKinley of the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism tells me that there are six more geotrails in the works for Meriwether County. The next trail will be situated in and around Manchester, Georgia, and will highlight Meriwether County’s rich railroad history.

Update:  Now you don’t have to stop by the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce to pick up your passport.  Simply download and print the pages from the following links: Inside and Outside

Posted in Geocaching, GeoQuest, Geotour, Meriwether County, Meriwether County Georgia, The Real Woodbury Zombie Geoquest, Woodbury, Woodbury Georgia, Zombie Free Zone | 3 Comments

I Wasn’t Prepared…

As I began to write this entry I was planning to write a tear jerker, a piece that would not just tug at the heartstrings but would stretch them to the breaking point. Well, as you will see, that didn’t quite happen…but I figured out why. Everyone has a coping mechanism of some sort, an instinctive reflex that helps them keep going when the going gets tough. During ConnieLou’s bout with cancer this past spring, I realized that my coping mechanism is laughter. Finding things to make us laugh helped with the stress of the situation. Now that doesn’t mean that I became a stand-up comedian and told jokes endlessly. Instead it usually came in the form of a ‘one-liner’ poking fun at a particular situation. I guess that makes sense as I have a bit of a sarcastic streak and I’ve been accused of being a smartass more than once. With that said, as I began to write and the words began to flow my coping mechanism began to kick in and the idea of a tear jerker sort of went out the window. Oh well. So…you can probably put the KleenEx and Sham-Wows away. Well, maybe keep one KleenEx or a sleeve handy since ConnieLou tells me there are still a couple of emotional moments to be had. Read on…

I wasn’t prepared…

I thought I was, but it turns out I wasn’t.

For those expecting a tale of one of my normal outdoor or cooking misadventures, you may be disappointed because that’s what this entry isn’t. Instead, it’s a dad’s reflection on moving his youngest daughter into her dorm, uh, OK, ‘residence hall’ for her first year in college.

ConnieLou and I have always known the day would come that the girls would leave the nest and head out on their own. They’re both in school so technically they haven’t completely left home yet, but for nine months out of the year, they’ll both be away and doing their own thing.

When we moved Ashley into her room at Young Harris College there was excitement and, of course, there were some tears…but it seemed to be more of the beginning of a new adventure and less of the end of an era since Jenna was still at home to keep us company and to keep us amused and aggravated…both of which she relishes in doing. But we knew the day would come that Jenna would head off to school and they would both be out of the house…and that day sneaks up on you.

We started doing all the normal college prep stuff with Jenna over a year ago. She took the SAT and ACT exams, looked up colleges on the internet, requested literature, went for college visits, submitted admissions applications, got accepted, picked a college (Flagler College, BTW…Go Saints!…well, except when they play my Mountain Lions), paid the deposit, paid the tuition, paid room and board, ordered textbooks and bought all the cool stuff for her dorm room…basically we did all the normal stuff with all the normal excitement. And in the backs of our minds we knew that move-in day, the start of her first semester and our first long stretch in an empty house was rapidly sneaking up on us…and I wasn’t prepared.

Sure, I was physically prepared. We’d bought all the stuff, sorted all the stuff, condensed all the stuff, packed and repacked all the stuff, loaded up all the stuff, drove all the stuff and the owner of the stuff to St. Augustine, unloaded all the stuff and arranged all the stuff in said stuff owner’s dorm room. We even made a run to the store to buy a little more stuff.

What I wasn’t prepared for were the mental things, like backing out of the driveway and realizing that two cars were leaving but only one would come home. I wasn’t prepared for that first ‘this is it’ moment when you open the door to an empty dorm room and look inside. I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions that I unsuccessfully try to hide as we turned to leave after that last goodbye hug before heading to the car to leave. Nor was I prepared for the long, quiet ride home…well, quiet except for the occasional sniffles and boo-hoos from the passenger seat…I had a pretty good idea those would be coming.

While Jenna’s leaving home and going off to school is, in a sense, the end of an era, in reality, like it was with Ashley, it’s the beginning of her own adventure, first college and then life. And…it’s even the beginning of a new adventure for me and ConnieLou as we chart a new course in life without kids in the house and learn to be a couple again while the girls are away..

Oh, and for what it’s worth…I already have a pretty good idea that part of my course in life is to amuse and aggravate ConnieLou…both of which I relish in doing.

Flagler Bound

Posted in College, Flagler College | 2 Comments