Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 2- finding the loud

There are some things about backpacking that I could not seem to learn from books, but everybody knows....one of those is, beware shelters and campsites that are anywhere near a parking lot. What I mean here is that the campsites are usually spaced somewhere around 8 miles apart on the trail, the idea being, the ATC (the people that maintain the trail), figure you might need a place to sleep soon, and they'd rather you do it in a designated place, rather than creating another spot in the woods. The advantage is, that you will meet other hikers and perhaps not need to set up a tent. There would be an outhouse nearby and usually a good place to hang your food in other to make it difficult for animals to have a feast while you are sleeping.
When the shelter happens to be within a mile of a parking lot, which is usually a place where people can park and go hiking, this puts the shelter within reach of the recreational campers...which usually means 4-5 guys with a cooler of beer, hoping to have a big fire and a good time. 

As it turned out, the states we passed through on this hike thought it was a wonderful idea to have all of their shelters within easy reach of the parking lots and the locals were experiencing their first week of cool weather without rain. So....our very first night was a party, and by party, I mean the people camping near us had a party that lasted all night while everybody else but me was snoring. 

Now, there is snoring that is like a buzzing saw and I can get used to that, but this was more like somebody was strangling a horse, and did I mention there was a dog as well? Yes, our neighbors had a dog that looked like it was as fierce as any pitbull, but was pretty fearful of us and the women that were camping nearby as well. There would be the sound of an acorn dropping on the tin roof of the shelter and the dog would bark for  5 minutes after. It seemed like the snoring stopped while the dog barked. As least I was not worried about animals bothering us. At one point in the night, I had a vision of a bear walking up to the shelter with his paws over his ears, growling at me until I prodded the guy next to me to roll over onto his side.

Not only was there a loud inconsistent snoring and a dog, there was another loud snoring person on the other side, and I kept hoping for a cancellation effect, but it never happened. Instead, things got worse...you are probably wondering, what else could there be? We had a bunch of guys drinking around a campfire, Christmas lights strung all around their campsite and every once in a while, I could almost make out part of the conversation, like one word out of five or something. Snoring like I've never heard before in my life, and it was 11:30 at night. I was beginning to think sleep was never going to come, and it was so cold that only my nose was sticking out of my sleeping bag.
It was then that a sound I had noticed before in the background started coming into focus. At first I thought it was somebody way down the mountain riding a motorcycle and racing around the countryside, but it just kept going on and on. Finally, I recognized the pattern in the sound and couldn't believe it. Here I was, far from the loud city noises of home, the trains, the cars, the sirens, and where did I decide to spend my first night? Just up the mountain from the local dragstrip.
Yessir, I started paying more attention to the burnouts, checking how many seconds the engines ran up to 20,000 rpm and wondering if this was just time trials, or were they going to pit two cars against each other. I don't know what time the event was over, because I think I actually slept for a minute or two that night. I can still remember the point where I realized the partiers had gone to sleep and the racetrack had closed down for the evening and all I had to was listen to stereo snoring...life was good.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 1 - The Search for Sleep

A last minute trip with split second timing. Could it be done? This time Paul had me do the planning for a 7 day, 70 mile backpacking trip in the mountains of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Thus, two Perkins brothers decided to head back out to the trail,  since Florida seemed to have decided that summer had been extended to cover the rest of October.
We found a week of time when no hurricane was threatening either Florida or the part of the Appalachian Trail that we wanted to hike and bought last minute tickets to Hagerstown, Maryland.
This was to be an easy hike through the woods of three different states, with a few opportunities to go into nice little towns and resupply.
The Sanford Airport, which was usually our go-to, sleepy town takeoff spot, decided to go hardcore with the Homeland Security screening process and it ended up being almost as bad as the big airport we wanted to avoid.
We ended up leaving on time and had a peaceful flight to a little runway in Maryland, only to find that our shuttle driver was not there. A quick call produced "Oh, you mean you are coming this Friday?". I replied, "No, I mean we are on the ground, at the airport waiting for you right now." She said that she was leaving  right away and would be there in 30 minutes. Paul was already wondering if he should not have given up the planning job to a person that did not have a detail-oriented brain. Our ride finally showed up an hour later and we immediately got lost trying to find the trailhead. She didn't mind, as we were paying by the mile. About $45 later, we were standing in the woods, watching our ride go off in a cloud of dust. Feeling good, we marched into the cold Maryland wilderness. I was dealing with a cold and didn't have much of a voice, but aside from that I was feeling strong. Paul was at his best and was excited about his new gear. His pack was only 22 pounds and full of really healthy food. The trail was nice and easy, and the air felt great after escaping the Florida hot and humid soup. Behind us was 95 degree heat, Red Tide at the beaches, and crowds of grumpy people everywhere. We were leaving behind the rat race, politics, and the news in general.
Adventure lay ahead. The characters of the trail and the opportunity to sleep outside under the stars in the brisk mountain air was exciting. We were experienced backpackers, but nothing in our memory helped us with the very first night on the trail of Maryland......

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 13 - In Which We Do The Unthinkable

I have found that we really do need to get out into the world and see things for ourselves. Sometimes the things we are sure of, well they just don't match up with what's out there.
Here we were, riding in a shuttle bus, flying along much faster than I felt good about, on snaking gravel country roads, while our hostess, casually drifted through turns that had me looking in earnest for something like a seatbelt. Paul was in his element, asking her about the logistics of running a campground out in the middle of nowhere. She found a kindred spirit and soon they were going into great detail about the best places to get large supplies of soft drinks for the best price, and what kind of candy bars really appealed to the backpackers that came into her store.
It turned out that she owned a really nice little place, and everybody in her family had a job there. Grandma came up to welcome me as I entered the store, me doing my best not to smell like a homeless person and failing, while she pretended not to notice. The daughter and son were off on different errands and taking orders for the grill in the back of the campground general store. Even while grandma was welcoming me, I was paying more attention to the other campers that were walking away from the counter, with cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes. I don't think that I salivated enough that grandma could tell, but I'm not sure.

The owner seemed more like someone that would be head of a Cub Scout den than the owner of a campground, and sure enough, when we got the backstory, they left the big city to come run this place, and it looked like she could do it. The big surprise I got later, was the old guy riding around on a tractor, was her husband and she said he was good for doing odd jobs, but there was absolutely no question that she was the entrepreneur in the family. At some point she had Paul go check out some old coke machine that she was trying to fix, and he seemed excited about it, but it turned out it was junk. She had been on ebay looking for a key and doing research, how she had time, I cannot fathom.

It was finally my turn to eat and it was the best tasting food I'd had in a long time. When it was all gone, I sat back and felt glad that I was here instead of out on the trail in the rain. It was then that the bad feeling started in my stomach. Food poisoning was on my mind, although thinking back, it was probably too much, too soon after the hiking. For the next two hours, I hiked the campground in the rain, knowing for sure that if I lay down for a moment, I'd get sick. My exact feeling was that I was postponing the vomiting as far into the future as possible, but by some miracle, I was able to walk it off.
I went back into the store, and the owner said "Hey, there is an extra bunk in your cabin, and we had another hiker come in and he'll stay with you...he said you wouldn't mind." I turned around and there was Popeye!
It rained some more, and by the next day, I was ready for some home cooking and got one of the best breakfasts ever....and our Campground owner was also the cook. I didn't see much of her husband. I'm guessing with that 100 mph wife, the only safe place for a guy that didn't want to work as hard as she did, was out of sight.

We had a good time, hearing more stories from Popeye and meeting some of the other folks in the campground, but it finally became apparent that the rain wasn't going to end. Even Popeye was thinking of something else to do to avoid getting back out in the wet and the bugs. We finally decided that an early plane ticket home wasn't much more than the cost of a hotel room, so we got tickets and came home early. Paul was eager to get back home to tend to his business and I was beginning to wonder who's idea this was anyway...but I knew there would be a next time...

If there is a best thing about all of this, it is the cool people you meet. Charlie (Popeye) stayed in touch via email, telling us of his travels while doing his through hike. His college-age daughter joined him and hiked with him for month, leaving him with memories that will last him forever. Hopefully, we will soon learn if Popeye managed to complete the whole hike in a year as he planned. Me? I'll be happy to just go spend some more time in the woods, when the bugs are gone and the rain is light.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Should You Get A Bike Without A Seat?

I laughed when I first saw this contraption at the bike shop on the trail in Winter Garden, but after taking up the manager's offer to go for a test spin, I was shaking my head in wonder. It was nothing like biking, more like exercising. Basically, you were working hard almost all the time. As I walked away from the shop, shaking my head, it began to occur to me that it could be something awesome for that morning workout, where an hour is all you had, and that wasn't near enough time to even get warmed up on my bicycle. I wondered if an hour every day could make the difference that running used to do for me before I messed up my knees. Walking was not cutting it, I wasn't close enough to anywhere I could ride my bike hard without getting whacked by the rush hour traffic, and I can't stand the idea of going to a gym or treadmill when it is possible to be outdoors. It's bad enough that I have to sit in front of a computer and look at the day passing by...but what if this machine could do the job of running without the knee issues?
I got in touch with EliptiGo and they kindly offered to loan me a couple of their bikes to try out for a week. I was excited, but found the 8c bike a little bit strange for me. The SUB felt good, like an old shoe, and I found myself looking forward to my morning ride. I'd come home each day to tell my wife what new goal I had beaten. 
One thing I remember was that I kept thinking, "could you do the same thing with a BMX bike?" I'm not sure that would work. I used the gears quite a bit, especially doing the hills. The SUB felt like quality through and through, and I did get a lot of looks and questions. Everyone seemed a bit put off at the $800 price tag, but it seemed not so bad to me after spending a lot of time shopping for recumbent bikes. If you want something that is not currently selling in large volumes, the price is going to be a bit higher. What I was thinking about, was the possibility of becoming much fitter without hurting my knees.
 Another interesting thing I found was of the colors the bike came in, the neutral gray was perfect for this thing that made me think more of skateboarding than biking. 
I started missing the SUB the day Jordan picked it up to go on to another show. I was back to walking and trying to run..
I was left wondering....just how far could I go with that thing?
Trying to figure out my limits... that was a good feeling to have back...