Monday, July 25, 2011

Between The Lines

“Pirates” has been updated...

The “Out There” page has some new photographic entries with “hot links” added to the captions that will take you to the original post should you be so inclined.

Behind every blog there's an Author,so I have added an “About” page that gives a more personal account of why “Of Pirates & Prestige” exists, and the history behind the blog.

I have written, deleted, and re-written the “About” page many times as I have struggled to convey the point of the blog.

It finally came together.

Got some time to kill? Check it out then shoot me a line at;

And be looking out for another beach camping trip to Portsmouth Island NC in the near future...


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rip Rap Hollow Trail - Shenandoah National Park

Ash and I have been kicking around the idea of taking our local trail runs/hikes to higher elevations and distances for some time now, but a myriad of injuries, scheduling issues, and far sightedness have been speed bumps on our road to trail running/fast packing progress.

So how does far sightedness factor into trail running and hiking?

We have been all over the Blue Ridge Mountains but have concentrated our energy on the “far flung” areas of The Blue Ridge Highlands, like Pulaski and Grayson Counties.

That “farsightedness” has caused us to overlook some prime trails in our own back yard.

It turns out that the entrance to Shenandoah National Park is almost exactly an hour from our home, who knew?

Adding to this close proximity is the fact that Ash, being the master strategist that she is, has been plotting day hikes close enough to the homestead so that we could spend the day exploring and still be back in time to grill out, drink a few beers, and relax.

Truth be told, we have been to Shenandoah National Park in the past but my aversion to paying money for access to the wilderness had kept me away from the idea of going back.

A robust $15.00 entrance fee didn’t help the cause.

Well, the entrance fees aren’t going to change, and I love the idea of finding new places to go, so I decided to change my perspective.

For $30.00 bucks you can buy a year’s pass to the park, go twice and it’s paid for, to get your money’s worth you should go as often as possible, so the park fee actually encourages you to get out and see more of the outdoors!

You have to love that reasoning.

Ash set it up, a hiking/fast packing loop under 14 miles that had great views, a flowing creek, and incorporated a section of the venerable Appalachian Trail.

Sunday morning found us at mile 90 of The Skyline Drive and the parking lot for Rip Rap Hollow trail. (Several vehicles were already on site, but with ample parking still available).

The trail, (which we hiked in a counterclockwise direction) is a 9.5 mile circuit rated as “moderately strenuous” that ties together Rip Rap Hollow, the AT, and a 2.62 mile climb up Wild Cat Ridge, then back to the AT and the parking lot to complete the loop.

Our Route
The trail has an elevation gain of 2200 feet and can be done as a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip.

Depending on where you look, the hike can take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours to complete.

That being said, Ash, our two pups and me moved at a good clip and completed the circuit is just under 4 hours with stops for lunch, and exploring.

I counted around 5 well placed campsites along the trail that would comfortably fit the average 2 person tent.

The best overlooks/views included Calvary Rocks, and Chimney rock which did not disappoint as we were treated to some incredible cloud formations moving across the bright green landscapes of distant mountains.

The view from Calvary Rock
Chimney Rock overlook
Another perk to hitting the trail in July were the abundance of wild blue berries, and the occasional blackberry bush, with fruit that was incredibly sweet.

trailside Blueberries

One of the key attractions of the trail is a brilliant swimming hole just down stream from a 20 foot waterfall.

The swimming hole had the highest concentration of trail users so in my normal fashion we “kept on keeping on” to put some distance between us and them.

Based on Ash’s trail notes and topo map we sat down at a campsite just off of the stream to fuel up before the charge up Wildcat Ridge.

After the 2 mile scramble we took a breather at the intersection with the AT and then cruised for 2 more miles back to the car.

Rip Rap Hollow has just about everything you could want in a hike, Panoramic views, an awesome stream that dumps into an incredible swimming hole, and various forms of flora and fauna.

Our mindset for this trip was more about pushing ourselves and our individual physical capabilities than our backpacking trips which center on being surrounded with nature.

Each adventure takes on its own personality, and without saying a word we both knew that we wanted to test or mettle on longer distances and "wilder" terrain.

The problem with Bears...

So between sips of brown ale and crab cake quesadillas, I couldn’t help but grin at the thought that we had found yet another playground so close to home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Weekends Well Lived

Here’s to that classic country play list that you made long ago, and to just how good George Jones sounds echoing through the darkened trees.

Here’s to dancing.

Here’s to the glow of citronella torches and the twinkle of deck lanterns as they cast romantic shadows across teak wood colored planks of my favorite deck.

Here’s to the best food in town, a marriage of work and creativity born in the kitchen, and enjoyed by the candlelight.

Sweet potato puffs w/green onion and goat cheese
Honey and garlic marinaded grilled shrimp
Lump crap cakes
 Here’s to craft beer, and to those who appreciate the difference.

Here’s to red wine and its uncanny ability to make food taste that much better.

Here’s to her.

Here’s to the full moon’s glow, and human powered adventure.

A full moon shines down on the singlespeed after a late evening romp in the woods

Here’s to cool mornings and a cup of strong coffee.

Here’s to the foothills of the Blue Ridge being a stone’s throw away.

Here’s to her good company, and doing it because you can.

Here’s to the weekend, and to times well lived.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

INOV-8 Terroc 330 Trail Runner- Gear test & review

My Terroc 330’s are my forth pair of trail running shoes from INOV-8.

I bought my first pair of INOV-8 Terroc’s around 2008, and I currently own a well worn pair of INOV-8 Roclite 295’s as well as a pair of Flyroc 345 GTX “Gortex” trail runners.

Top: Flyroc 345 GTX in royal blue and gray Middle: Terroc 330's in "indigo & gray" Bottom: Roclite 295 in black with green accents

INOV-8 is a British Company that specializes in Off-Road specific shoes, but they are currently in the process of introducing new road models to their line up as well.

The company's shoes have also become a favorite of athletes involved with the “CrossFit” training system/discipline.

INOV-8 was making low volume, low profile shoes long before the current “barefoot” or minimalist running movement had become popular in the US.
My personal view or opinion without weighing in on the “barefoot” debate (for which I lack proper knowledge) is that INOV-8 shoes have been my personal favorite since my original pair in 2008.

Why? Because they are incredibly comfortable, breathable, light, and fit my feet better than any other trail running platform I have owned.

INOV-8 shoes, like any other “minimalist” shoe design do not have significant or pronounced cushioning, or a distinctly raised heal, that’s the nature of these types of shoes, so if you prefer a heavily cushioned shoe look elsewhere.

It’s also the exact reason that I prefer the INOV-8 shoes over other models.

With INOV-8 shoes I can feel my foot strike, and the connection to the trail beneath me, which gives me a more grounded and centered feeling during trail running or cross training which equates to more confidence.

That being said, The Terroc 330 is an ultra light weight breathable trail runner.

INOV-8 designates their shoe models by their weight in grams for a UK size 8.

So the Terroc “330” weighs 330 grams.

One of my favorite aspects of these shoes is their light weight and breathability for the 90 degree+ heat of Virginia summers. I run very hot and need as much venting and breathability as possible.

The Terroc’s are extremely breathable, I can’t stress this enough.

As I mentioned before, the cushioning on the Terroc 330 is minimal but dispensed properly throughout the sole giving (in my opinion) the perfect amount of protection to “trail feel” ratio.

The shoes may lack a degree of lateral stability for some folks because of their minimalist design, but I welcome this movement as the shoe allows for my natural foot flex and muscle movement as it responds to the changing terrain.

INOV-8 touts what they call their ‘Meta-Flex” groove as providing a natural flex for the forefoot.

Note the INOV-8 "Meta-Flex" groove

I am convinced that this one attribute of the INOV-8 brand shoe is much more than clever marketing and that you can most certainly feel your foot flex at the stress point which feels completely natural and promotes a confident foot strike and “toe-off”.

The outer sole of the Terroc 330 is quite aggressive with large individual lugs, and while I have run on gravel roads near home, the shoe is much better suited to the trail and uneven natural features for which it is designed than as a road runner. (Small gravel bits will stick between the lugs)

As a side note, the outer soles on the Terroc 330’s are sturdy but sticky, with a robust toe rand that wraps around the toe box. The soles are NOT no-marking however, which means that they will leave a black streak on your hard wood floors.

I have put approximately 40 miles on my new Terroc 330’s without any measurable wear on the outer sole or visual compaction of the soles.

My old Terroc’s probably went for 300 or so miles before being retired (and I was roughly 25 pounds heavier than my current weight of 181 pounds at the time).

I have never experienced a serious material defect, or what I would classify as a poorly designed part of my Terroc 330’s, and they last as long or longer than one would expect from such a light weight trail runner.

My one gig against my Terroc’s or any of my INOV-8 shoes is that the adhesive they are using to glue the INOV-8 decal to the shoe is failing early on in the shoe’s life.

The Terroc’s profile is decidedly low even for a trail runner, and the shoe exhibits a no-nonsense appeal in a time when shoes of all makes are becoming exceedingly flashy.

The Terroc's have limited but adequate reflectors for a trail runner sewn into the shoe at key points in the toe and heel.  
Heel view/ Note modest reflectors on either side

From an aesthetic point of view the Terroc 330’s look well balanced with running or hiking shorts while at the same time would fit nicely with a pair of jeans or khakis.

Bottom line:

The Terroc 330’s are excellent trail runners that will drain water, are highly breathable, quite robust for their weight, and are the most comfortable shoes I have used in moderate to hot temperatures on varied terrain from sand to compacted red clay and loose rocks, to exposed roots and loam.

They would work well for fast-packing or day hikes under light loads, but I would recommend something more substantial with a higher profile for multi-day outings with heavier pack weights.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Single Speed Blues

A quick history first;

The very same week that I was cleared by my ankle surgeon to ride my bike, a funny thing happened…

A “reoccurring” friend of mine decided to show up, a “friend” that had put me in the hospital on two previous occasions in the past.


- The week that I was cleared to ride my bike…

-I lost the ability to ride my bike...


Fast forward through five months of repeated Doctor visits and countless medications to today…

Blurry as it goes, I lost my footing as I snapped the pic of my bike

Today was the first time that I have legitimately ridden my single speed since January 5, 2011.

A recap of the ride would look something like this;

6 miles of;

 -Picking the wrong lines

-Pushing up several switchbacks that I used to clean

-Hitting a section of slick roots and spinning just long enough to realize that I was going over the handle bars.

Awkward to say the least

I had just rode past 2 fawns when I saw this guy in the stream 
 But at least I was riding…

And as I pedaled through the pine forest the conversation with my Doc became crystal clear in my mind.

“Can I ride”?

“Do you want to get better”?

‘Nuff said…

So, I rode, and I will ride again, and at the risk of sounding over dramatic it will probably land me back in the hospital as well, but it is where I dwell, and I can be no other place.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why We Run

I was flat out unmotivated today, that’s a fact, it was my first day back at work after vacation and I was not enthused…I had picked up 2 more reports in my absence and I could forecast the specter of a landslide of work coming my way as a result of the “do more with less” philosophy permeating my organization.

I wrestled with these thoughts all day.

In the mist of these thoughts a close friend stopped in to tell me that he was done, done with the job, the schedule, politics…He was done, and he was washing his hands and moving on.

He apologized for leaving…

No apology necessary.

My wife graciously packed my gear this morning to help steer me in the right direction, yesterday we ran, played, and stomped our way through a 5 mile trail run.

But that was yesterday, and today is today.

Unmotivated to the last…

My indecision followed me out to the parking deck at the end of the day, and then a strange thing occurred. The slightest ray of sunshine found its way through the depressed concrete to kiss me on the cheek as I loaded up to leave.

A subtle hint I surmised as I returned to the bathroom and fumbled through changing out of my suit, I pointed my car north, & six songs later, I was moving down the trail with stinging sweat in my face, my legs burning to adjust to the hills and grades that have been so neglected out of the necessity of recovery.

Work be dammed, and indecision put aside, I run because I can, because it makes me feel alive.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Outer Banks Experience

This past week found us on vacation with my family in Waves/ Rodanthe North Carolina.

Each year my parents try to juggle everyone’s schedules in an effort to get some quality family time; they have devised plans from family cruises to beach house rentals over the years, and as everything came into alignment for 2011 we were all able to pack it up and head down to the beach.

It’s unusual for Ash and I to stay in the luxury of a beach house, and we jumped at the chance to experience the beach from a different perspective.

That being said we are not tent camping purist that would just as soon choke on granola then stay under the confines of 4 walls while at the beach, and as a bonus, it’s really cool to spend time with the family.

There are however some obvious differences between camping on an uninhabited island and spending a week at a vacation house.

Bikini, beer, and boogie board, the wife in her natural vacation habitat

After years of intensive prodding and occasional ridicule we were able to convince my parents and brother that vacationing in Nags Head proper was akin to spending a week at a NASACAR race with the exception of the whole ocean thing, and that piece of mind and total relaxation could be found just a stone’s throw further south.

I will concede that it’s not easy to plan a family vacation around my hermit sensibility and my fanatical devotion to my dogs and that they accompany us everywhere, and my mother did a masterful job taking everyone’s “wants” into account when she picked the rental.

One of the first things Ash and I had to work our way around was the sheer number of people on the beach on a sunny day, but add some clouds, a few thunder claps, and intermittent rain and the number of beachgoers became dramatically reduced.

Parents braving an afternoon storm as others flee for cover

Our best option for crowd management was a short drive to beach access ramp #34 on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore where we simply drove away from people to get a little more room to stretch our legs for fishing and surfing.

I have been going to the Outer Banks since 1990’ish to do what I consider to be some of the gnarliest spasmodic renditions of surfing in modern human history, but I do have fun, and this trip Ash decided that she wanted to get in on the action, so we added yet another stick to my quiver of boards from the Rodanthe Surf Shop. (Nice folks)

The "bent monkey" surfing stance 

If you’re paying attention a family vacation can provide one of those moments where you think to yourself, ‘This is it, this is what matters”…

My epiphany occurred at 5:38am with the sun breaking over the horizon as my father and I cast our lines into the Atlantic Ocean.

My wife was there to capture the moment in time, proof positive that an image can be priceless.

Pops trying his hand at retirement 

Most evenings you could find me manning the charcoal grill as the family got together to enjoy fresh clams, shrimp, scallops, and Red Snapper from Austin’s South Island Seafood & Produce Company. (The Snapper was truly phenomenal).

Although it was a family vacation Ash and I still found time to steal away for a moonlit bike ride or a dinner for two.

Our “Date night” would be at Good Winds Seafood & Wine Bar where we sampled braised alligator, Sashimi Tuna, duck spring rolls, and Mahi Tacos. (Good food, good craft beer selection, although I can only surmise that I must have reminded our young female bartender of her father whom she still holds some degree of resentment towards).

Sunset over the sound at Good Winds

Family vacations with the swirling noise of kids bounding from the pool to the hot tub and back, the sounds of constant conversation interrupted by brief moments of reflection, water balloon fights, early morning runs, and trying to chase down the sunset on the single speed in the diminished evening light, it’s good for the soul…