Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rage Against The Machine


Enough already...If this post seems pointed, if I come across as argumentative or dare I say even pugnacious it is with good cause.

For 9 months my wife and I have endured the onslaught of thoughts and comments that come with pregnancy...  
"Just you wait"...
"You will see soon enough"
"Cloth diapers?"
"Making your own baby food"?
"Say goodbye to sleep"
"Life as you known it will change"
Really? So let  me get this straight, bringing another human being, that you created, that you are responsible for, that knows nothing in its baby world but what you will teach it, changes your life?
You don't say...

"What exactly did you think would occur when you decided to have a child?
Was it similar to the life ending  utterance of saying "I do" when you were married?
Did you think of  these things at all, prior to the commitment of actually doing them?  
"Sounded like a good idea at the time"...
Now that I think about it, my life style has frequently come under scrutiny because of my propensity to "go my own way".
Rest assured that this "philosophy on life",(as flawed as it may be), will be a driving force in the upbringing of my son as well.     
Alas it is not all "Doom & Gloom".
There are small pockets of resistance, I have seen them with my own eyes, I have passed them on the trail, I know some of them on a personal level.
Families that aren't about the status quo, they rage against the machine...

“Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait”


 ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Still Kicking

So the Pirates page has been in a sort of limbo for months, not because things haven’t been going on, but quite the contrary actually.
In short order the following things have occurred in the span of a few months;
-We found out we were pregnant... "quite the gut check" (now I have to buy that Osprey kid carrier backpack)
- I lost my Father in law & Ash lost a dad
-Ash got a much deserved transfer
- I managed to get a promotion, then a transfer...to an evening shift... so in essence my preggers wife and I are like two ships passing in the night.
So that’s quite a bit to take in, and always a good place to look for perspective.
Well, I found just that in an article in Backpacker magazine.  
The article, appropriately titled “Heroes”, chronicled Kyle Maynard’s climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro, a 19,341 mountain in Tanzania.
Kyle and his 8 person team climbed the mountain to raise awareness for the staggering number of veterans who commit suicide upon returning home from Iraq & Afghanistan.  
So what’s so extraordinary about that?
Kyle Maynard is a congenital quadruple amputee.
Like I said; perspective...
So the reality of things is change is inevitable when you’re moving in a forward motion, and most of what  has occurred for both of us is positive (transfers) if not extraordinary (baby bump)...
So life is good, and to take a piece of advice given to Kyle Maynard from one of his team mates...
“Not dead, can’t quit”...
Cheers & on to the next adventure.
Stephen

Monday, June 18, 2012

Photo Op

So one of Ashby's photos was selected for Blue Ridge Country Magazine's July/August issue, and that is pretty cool...

http://blueridgecountry.com/current-issue/dogs/page-3.html

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Day to Remember


As we celebrated Jerry's life, we looked out over the river that he loved...

A Day to Remember

It was a beautiful spring day like so many days before it, nothing out of the ordinary, yet a day to remember.

You were with your wife, you’re companion through the years; she would be by your side this day, a day to remember.

She held fast as she always does, strong willed and determined, but fate took hold as it often does, and gave us this day to remember.
I will never forget my feelings, of being helpless the sorrow and pain, this day unlike all the others and one we will always remember.
Through her strength and courage, we honored your life & name, and with it I feel certain I will always remember this day.
Life is so fleeting; that we should live it without regret, this day you gave us to remember, a day I will never forget.  
Miss you Jerry
Steve

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The End of the World, A love story

Some of you may recall my May 2011 rant/ blog post where I gave readers an invaluable list of items for the impending doomsday that was to have occurred in December of 2011.

"End of the World & Nothing to Wear"

As it were things didn’t quite go apocalyptic and the human race remains a vibrant fixture on planet Earth.

So is life, while our love affair with the end of the world continues.
2012 brings us a whole new perspective on the "end times" as we approach the end of the Mayan calendar
I- phone Photo taken by Hector Siliezar at Chichen Itza in 2009
December 21, 2012 is when the Mesoamerican (read Mayan)”long calendar” supposedly runs out. 
Now I am not an astrophysicist, nor am I an ancient civilization historian, but I do offer a simple observation to 2012’s impending end.
The Mayans checked out a long time ago, don’t believe me?  Travel down to Chichen Itza and poke around the pyramids until you find one, chances are you’re going to be there a while (bumping into a “Mayan ancestor” selling temple snow globes at the gift shop doesn’t count)  
So in a sense the Mayan’s calendar "ran out" quite some time ago.
But I digress…
The apocalypse and end times sells in a big way, “Google” zombie apocalypse and you’ll get 24,100,000 results in (0.22 seconds).
There are even reputable ammunition companies selling zombie ammo, as well as gun manufacturers making “limited edition” zombie killer firearms.

Another prime example of our love for the end times is the wildly popular "Nat-Geo" show “Doomsday Preppers” that has taken “reality” TV to an entirely new and bizzaro level.
David is a Doomsday Prepper  
Imagine my completely blank expression as I listened to a student in a public safety organization explain that these shows offer viable “tips and ideas” in preparation for worst case scenarios.
That’s the logical equivalent to the idea that jumping off a cliff into a freezing river to get to the other side is a good survival tactic because "Bear Grylls said so"….

Ever survival minded, our pragmatic host hurls himself off yet another cliff...
If this next part upsets you, I apologize in advance, but those shows with the “doomsayers” are more of a study in mental illness than disaster preparedness.
Oddities sell, normalcy does not.
I know guys that have bought enough guns to arm a small militia in north Georgia, (fundamental firearms rule #207; you can only effectively shoot 1 firearm at a time).

Your's truly on zombie overwatch...
You want to go buy something, go buy a camp stove, or a good bottle of bourbon.   
Besides, do you really want to be around after a nuclear holocaust or major world ending solar flare? 
“Only the strong survive Steve”, got it, then make room for me in your bunker.
There are so many real world things to be paranoid about, and yet we insist on creating even more phantoms to become pre-occupied over.
Maybe it’s just another form of escapism.
Or maybe "they" are right after all.
History certainly repeats itself and depending on where you look the world has been predicted to end anywhere from 15 to 264 times (unconfirmed).  
And yet here we are in our finite impossibly flawed human glory riding out both fictional and real life storms.(Tornadoes scare the hell out of me, the poles flip flopping not so much) …

And while the world isn't ending (at least not today) this is where I will conclude this post,  besides, I have to get back to my “TiVo ‘ed” episode of Chasing Bigfoot.  


Stephen




Monday, April 9, 2012

Tar Jacket Ridge- George Washington National Forest

In an effort to keep the adventure buzz humming for spring break we loaded up the truck and headed to Amherst County and the GeorgeWashington National Forest for a weekend backpacking trip.

We have made Easter weekend a traditional jump off point for trips because of the elongated break it afforded us and this trip was no different in that it was designed around the idea of “getting away” from the hustle and bustle of normal work related stressors with the exception that this time our trip would have to be abbreviated due to prior work related responsibilities on my end. 

That being said, Ash had pre-planned and scouted a 15 mile “lollipop” route known as the “Tar Jacket Ridge” loop which is across the way from Mount Pleasant where we had previously backpacked in 2009.
The route map has specific detailed information about the hike & points of interest
~ Thanks Ash~
So once the logistics of packing and food prep were done in between work schedules, we were on our way.
Ramsey shows her enthusiasm for the hike  
The beginning of the hike starts off mellow enough in a vast green meadow at the foot of the first real climb just off of the forest road that you park on.  
Several primitive campsites dot the area and are readily accessible to car camping and backpackers alike with the Appalachian Trail meandering through the open field.
It didn’t take us log to be reminded that we were backpacking in the mountains as a short climb opened up to a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks; Mount Pleasant, Cardinal, Friar, and Little Friar to name a few.    

The trail then snaked it’s way back down hill switch backing into the forest and across one of several forest development/ fire roads that we would crisscross along the way.
This particular section was a mix of large rocks & boulders interspersed with thickets of thorns, so we identified few camp sites along the way.


The trail then opened up into large areas of mixed hardwoods and pine forests with little to no underbrush again with limited sites for camping because of the significant pitch of the land.
After 6 miles of steady hiking we came across a beautiful camp site nestled between two small creeks.


The site had a small fire ring in a flat area adjacent to a massive rock with a huge decayed tree growing from it making for a prominent focal point. 

A few hours later we were drinking Horton Eclipse red wine near a crackling camp fire as the sun slowly dipped behind the wooded hills.


The forecast called for seasonable temps and clear skies with a pronounced dip in the mercury at night, and I would suspect that it got into the 30’s but as anyone who has backpacked can attest to; the answer to the most common question of; “How can you stand to be out there in the cold”, is explained by the fact that a two person tent when paired with quality down sleeping bags can create a rather pleasant interior environment of 50 to 60 degrees for world class sleeping arrangements( sans the fact that our two pups haven’t quite grown accustomed to sleeping outside with  the cacophony of unusual sounds that go along with the backcountry in the stillness of the night).    

Once the dogs settled in our K-9 wrestle-fest turned into snoozing and we “slept in” to allow the morning chill to subside.
After several cups of Starbucks instant coffee packs (backpacking godsend) and some filtered water from the stream we were on our way towards the “Seeley Woodworth” shelter and our turn around point to head back.
Up one ridge and down the other we went, on & on through the woods.


We covered 6 miles on the first day and decided to press on for the second covering just over 9 miles to complete the circuit.   
Solitude abounded on this hike, granted we saw several backpackers and hikers along the way, but we would go for hours at a time without crossing into another human’s path.   
The jingling of the dog’s leashes kept wildlife at bay as we saw limited animals on our trek; although we did receive a serenade by what we believe was a winter wren at our campsite by the boulder & stream.       
To get away, to get in your car and just go, to make a plan and stick to that plan, to put perceived obligations on the shelf if only for a while, to go somewhere that manages to transport you even further, to places that make you feel further away than you actual are, the search continues…  


  
 Stephen

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jones Run Trail- Shenandoah National Park

My extended 40th B-day celebration continued this weekend with Saturday seeing us at several local Craft breweries; Hardywood Park & Legend Brewery and a day hike in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday.


The fog rolling across Afton Mountain slowed our progress but did not dampen our spirits as we were both excited about another adventure in "SNP", which you may recall we have had limited exposure to as we have opted to explore further locals in the past.

Our Route
We weren’t on the trail long before we had disappeared into the forest under a blanket of thick fog, and light rain, and I couldn’t help but think that any vistas would be shrouded in low lying clouds.
Ash being a keen observer assured me that Jones Run trail was not known for its scenic views of the mountains but for another enticing attribute, its waterfalls.

And Jones Run did not disappoint with one waterfall after another cascading down the mountain with thundering noise and constant concussion from the impact of the falls.




We spent around 4 hours on the hike taking our time and treating it as more of a getaway trek than a fitness hike.

I would classify the hike as moderate to easy depending on your fitness level with a brief climb that you could definitely feel.  
There are few (We saw one) camp/backpacking sites along the hike, but numerous swimming holes along the route that would be ideal for warmer days. Some reviews indicate that the trail becomes considerably overgrown with nettles in the warmer months but it was incredibly clear and well marked while we were there. 
We passed several groups of like minded folks with one large group of around 12 or so hikers traveling in the opposite direction.

Curiously one family who had obviously taken a short spur trail from one of the many parking areas off of Skyline Drive were not fans of our leashed dogs as the mother of the group went squealing off into the wood line as we passed them on a short uphill section. Really? (I will avoid any further commentary on the subject)…   
   
Jones Run winds back and forth across Skyline Drive with a short sampling of the Appalachian Trail, so should you be in the mood for solitude you may want to consider another hike as the last quarter of the trail runs along the road and its accompanying traffic a fact that had very little impact on the experience for us.    
It’s incredible that places like this still exists, places that are as old as time itself and remind us of just how insignificant we really are.


Grilled Buffalo wings in a Sriracha-honey glaze with an Anderson Valley "Boont" Amber Ale for post hike grub, perfect.

Stephen


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Soundtrack to our lives

That song, the one that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck

That makes you feel something
That makes you feel anything
That makes you feel alive
To remember
To forget
To sing and to live
For sorrow
For joy
The soundtrack of our lives

To this we sing along…

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A pirate looks at 40

March came in like a lion, and as the days roll on by I get closer to the date (and more importantly) the fact that soon I will be 40 years old.

40 years old…

It was hard to see at 30
Impossible to fathom at 20
But never the less here I am on the cusp of the big “Four-O”
I readily admit that it gives one pause, but I refuse to grant it any undue anxiety.
When the subject comes up with my wife (who is considerably younger than I), the question posed to her is frequently along the lines of;
So how’s he doing with that?
As if turning 40 is an affliction, or maybe that I’m going to purchase a convertible Corvette in the throes of a full on mid-life crisis, or perhaps acquire a mistress to remind me of lost vitality…
Whatever…

My mistress is life itself, and there is so much to do from the mountains to the sea…
There’s something liberating about advancing age that replaces the need to be cool with the need to be happy, and the realization that friends will always be friends, and the rest...well it’s simply not that important.
So to those around me who consistently mutter under their collective breath that “It’s sucks getting old”, or “It’s not as easy as it used to be”, I offer this retort;
I feel better than ever, I am more driven (to be happy), and healthier then at any other point during my 40 year ride.  


Age can be a crutch most certainly.
But it can also be an impetus to drink in life that much more, a charge to go scare yourself with something new; identify a new bird on the feeder, try a new recipe, sip a new craft beer.
 
“Yes, I am a pirate
Two hundred years too late.
The cannons don't thunder there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over forty victim of fate; arriving too late
Arriving too late”...
-Jimmy Buffet

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The best spot in town

I know this place; it’s a bit off the beaten path, far removed from the endless stretches of chain food restaurants.

It’s quaint in a “new country” sort of way; the craft beer is always cold, and the wine list is made up of Virginia’s finest reds.

If your patient you can get a spot on the deck wedged comfortably between the grill & an outdoor fireplace crackling to keep the cool country air at bay. 

New York Strip with crab meat, asparagus spears and steak fries
The food is made to order, the very essence of home cooking.    
Dinner on the deck by candle light

A perfect fit with the perfect company. 

The best spot in town…

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homage

For those who left too soon & for those who keep the flame.      

We salute you…
Stephen


Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Checks In

Central VA received its first measurable snowfall this past weekend.

3 inches or so (by my best guesstimate) of thick wet snowball inclined white stuff.
The heavier snow came later in the evening, when the sky was pitch black and you could almost feel the presence of the front moving through.
Our premature pines groaned as the weight of the snow bowed them towards the ground.
In the distant wood line an invisible tree gave way to it's winter weight, thundering to the ground with an unmistakable concussion.
9:00pm with nothing moving, the snow with its strange tendency to mute and quiet everything in place.
We suited up, cracked a few cold ones, and went outside to sled and hurl snowballs at the unsuspecting pooches as they pranced around in the cold dark air.
Around an hour later, winter had its way and the power went south with a few feeble flickers of resistance.
There we sat under a cedar tree, clumps of snow falling around us, in complete darkness sans the dogs playing in the background.
We returned indoors to light candles and stumble around with the acoustic guitar, it’s hard to fathom that folks used to live each night under the candle’s light.   
Cheers to winter’s arrival however late it may be…



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Choices

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself”

~Henry David Thoreau
This is not an indictment of anyone’s chosen lifestyle, it’s your life, go live it.
That being said, this week has shown the consequences of choices from the celebrity to regular folks that I have known.
When you drop a pebble into a pond the ripples carry on from the impetus of its origin.
We would all do well to remember that the choices we make often affect people well beyond the light of our shortsightedness…
Stephen

Monday, January 30, 2012

The "Modern" Man?

So my wife and I both had the morning off and I happened upon a “news” show that did a segment on the “modern man”.

The segment included the following;
-The “man purse”
-Capri pants for men
-A “bikini” for men
-Pedicures & facials in a spa (think of a man getting a facial treatment applied via a paint brush in a Zen style setting)
-Spray tanning at a Tanning “Salon”
I offer a rebuttal to all of this non-sense.
But First I concede the following;
I wear “Capri” style tights when I ride my mountain bike, while some dudes would deduct points from my man-card for the tights they are in fact task specific and make sense for riding, so I would tell all of the naysayers to turn off the NFL reruns and go do something active in the woods. (By the way, Football players wear tights)
I write what some would consider poetry, another activity that some men would consider “feminine”. My response to this is read up on Bushido and the idea of the “Warrior Poet”. (The Samurai were NOT girly men)…   
I am fascinated by sunrises & sunsets, as evident by some of the photography I post, this doesn’t translate into me weeping frequently or reading romance novels with Fabio on the cover.  
Notwithstanding the aforementioned ranting here are a few observations from an “enlightened pseudo-redneck hybrid” kind of guy;
Women like real men.  
Women dig guys who take care of themselves both physically and mentally.
A man should be able to take his woman’s feelings into account while simultaneously being able to defend her, and I’m talking about real threats, not bar fights.
Men don’t spray tan, we get tan from being outdoors in the sun riding, running, fishing, using a *chain saw ,or building things like trails.
*(Don’t just walk around with a running chainsaw in a sub-division, another man may ask you why at gun point)
Real women do NOT like men who wear make-up; Boys with the skinny jeans and mascara are not appealing to women, maybe girls but not women.
TV personalities are almost never real men.   
Men don’t carry purses; you want to carry a bag? Get a backpack…then put your latte down & go for a hike, in the woods.
Real men build fires… (Controlled fires, don’t be a pyro)
Personal grooming does not include “Mani”-or “Pedi”-cures, got a hang nail? Tear it off and be on your way…
Men fish, and if they hunt they eat what they kill. (Standing on the side of the road in blaze orange waiting for a hunting dog that is suffering from malnutrition to “scare up a deer” so that you can ambush it does not rise to the level of making you a hunter.
Maybe this will be part one of a multi-part series, my small contribution to off-set the BS info being disseminated about modern men if you will.
Do real men blog?
Insight is yet another trait of the real man.   










    







  

    



  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mother Nature has left the building

So, where is the snow?

Mid January and none of the white stuff in Central VA, as I’m sure people are now saying “Be careful  what you wish for”…I don’t think my well wishing will have but so much impact on global weather patterns…
For the time being here are some old photos from winter weather of the past.


A March squall in the Highlands with 18 degree temps. 



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Enter the Car-Salesman

A quick “top ten” List on how NOT to sell a car, {as told from the perspective of a guy who is trying to buy a car, also known as the "Consumer”}.

Car salesman dudes take note;
1.       Don’t be full of S**t, the internet is everywhere, and the wise consumer has done their research and will call BS on your spiel.
 
2.       Take a look around, the economy is not so good, so telling me that “you don’t need to sell the vehicle” is probably not the best sales tactic.
 
3.       Be professional; A 40 something salesperson that looks like they just recovered from an all night bender does not weigh favorably on your dealership.
 
4.        The fact that you are from Detroit has no bearing on my decision to buy the car you are selling. (The vehicle I want is built in Texas)
 
5.       Know your subject matter; an ignorant salesperson is a death blow to selling a car. 

6.        Don’t try and “warm up to me” by telling me that you lost your cell phone in a toilet after having too much to drink. (True Story)
7.       Come and talk to me, while I realize it’s a bit brisk outside you actually have to come out of your dealership if you want to make a sale.
  
8.       The vehicles that you advertise online should be on your lot, I mean really guys, 5 cars listed NONE of which were physically at the dealership. 

9.       Don’t tell me that the reason “Northern Virginia” vehicles cost less is because the dealerships get their inventory from “up north” and that the cars are “Yankee vehicles” What does that mean anyway?  
 
10.   Don’t ask me why I would want “someone else’s vehicle” when I inquire about a used car; I don’t normally become emotionally attached to trucks.     


      

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Year Anniversary!

January 5, 2012 marks my one year anniversary of having ankle arthroscopy.

I was going back reading some of my post about the surgery & the process of recovery; it’s pretty wild to have all of those memories recorded on the blog.
While I am still trying to strengthen my ankle a year after the fact, my quality of life (physically speaking) has improved considerably.
So I’m having a beer to commemorate the event!
Imagine that.
Cheers!


    

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 1

The final beer’s name on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List hints at what’s to come in 2012 while celebrating the ghost that was 2011, I probably don’t reflect as much as I should because I’m all about forward motion, that being said I can’t help but think that around this very same time last year I was gearing up for ankle arthroscopy and everything that came with that adventure, 3 months down, and a year of recovery, and the beat goes on…

While I avoid “New Year’s resolutions" there are some things that I want to do in 2012;
-Enter a race in the woods, be it on a mountain bike, trail run or adventure race.
- Expand the home garage gym with more options and creativity
- Travel more
-Backpack more
-Live more
Beer # 1 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & beyond” list is;
Old Jubilation Ale

English Strong Ale
Avery Brewing Company, Boulder Colorado
8.3 ABV
 A gorgeous rust/copper color, with an aroma of raisins, roasted malts, and a mild sweetness, tastes of spice and roasted malts with that intoxicating sweetness again, with a slight alcohol finish, very drinkable for such a high ABV.
Paired with homemade Barbecue chicken pizza

Fantastic
Here’s to 2012.
A little daily reminder in the Kitchen


Stephen

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 2

 12 Beers of Christmas; Number 2

I sampled beer #2 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List on New Year’s Eve, as I’m not really a champagne kind of guy.
I’m definitely not into large crowds, and New Years Eve has never been much of a big deal to either of us, so our celebration is typically a low key affair.   
Wreck the Halls
India Pale Ale (IPA)
6.5 % ABV
A muted amber in color with a tan head, aroma of citrus, heavy hops, and spices, taste was very bold & hoppy with a hint of sweetness and a mellow bitterness, finishes very clean for an IPA.
Our New Years Eve dinner was a Seafood extravaganza which started with an appetizer of “not so fried”, fried green tomatoes with basil & balsamic mayo, sautéed calamari in olive oil, white wine, & garlic, and a main course of grilled scallops; shrimp smoked & grilled, and grilled grouper, which paired very well with the Wreck the Halls IPA, as the bitterness of the beer complimented the sweetness of the scallops.



All in all a very good IPA
 Stephen