Archive for June 2008

Blue Ridge Journal Day 8

Sorry, I’m late with this post.

Day 8 Saturday

Trying desperately to stay positive but seeing the week come to a close, with the added chore of packing up and cleaning up while still living under the pink fog…not my best moment. I feel particularly unpleasant and angry with Scoob. By no real fault of his own, he’s been a pain in the butt at times. I just wanted to be done, on our way and shoveling some grub in my pie-hole. When everything was finally complete we ended up having to wait on the dishwasher so we could re-stock all of the plates, bowls and silverware. We bided our time by watching a slide show of the pics from the week. Cool stuff..but we weren’t leaving yet. Finally, we head down the dusty gravel road for the last time and stop at a restaurant in Blue Ridge recommended by many of those who signed the guest book at the cabin. It’s called the Iron Skillet and to be honest I never had any inclination to eat there before. (Check out the sign and you’ll see what I mean; see pic.) At the risk of going all “nutty buddy” (story for another time) on you I cannot tell you what a surprise the Iron Skillet was. Absolutely the best breakfast I’ve ever had, the best service I’ve ever experienced and, hands-down, the best restaurant in the Blue Ridge area. Dana, Michelle and myself all ordered the Cajun skillet which was potatoes, fluffy, delicious scrambled eggs, green onions, myriad crawfish tails, andouille sausage, a rich hollandaise sauce, all topped with cheddar cheese and served up steaming in a little cast iron skillet. As if that wasn’t enough it came with a side of grits and a pancake of your choice. Michelle had the banana nut which was loaded with seared banana slices and walnuts. Dana had the peanut butter chip and I…well, I had the bacon pancake. Yes, that’s right my friends crispy bacon cooked right into a fluffy pancake. It’s not just a fantasy. Of course I was so hungry that I added a side of the skankiest most delicious corned beef hash ever served up ala carte in a greasy spoon. Keith raved about his omelet, Josiah seemed pleased with his decision and Luke, ever the oddball, ordered a turkey sub…which he claimed was wonderful. Right. Just another word about the Iron Skillet: The server was of such a caliber you would’ve thought him a maitre’ d in an upscale 5 star restaurant. His charm and expansive knowledge of the menu gave me the distinct impression that he must be the owner. He wasn’t. But he and his wife (the cook…nay, the chef) took such ownership in the place that without them I’m sure it would be devoid of the very qualities that make it such a great restaurant. Thank you Iron Skillet. You tamed the savage, angry, hungry beast and ended our amazing week on a substantial high. Can’t wait for our next trip to Blue Ridge.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 5

Started reading “Authentic Relationships” by Wayne Jacobsen and his brother Clay. Great stuff. Causing me to reflect on how many incredible friends God has placed in our life. Tom Conlon’s song, “Arms of Jesus” is playing through my head. Thinking this might be a good direction to go with the small group. Hopefully learned our lesson with the TVA. Called the night before and the message said the dam would release at 1pm. We loaded the canoes and prepared to leave at 12:15. Just prior to departure I called again…thank goodness. The release time had changed to 3pm. We squeezed in some more fishing and hang time, called at 2pm to confirm and left by 2:15. We were gently drifting down the river when the dam released. Not nearly as spectacular as I had hoped for. I assumed it was due to the fact they were only running one generator. We watched as the river began to slowly rise and we had a much easier paddle back to the cabin. Just as we arrived at the cabin the girls informed us that they had once again postponed the release time by and hour. As we pulled the boats out of the river we watched the river rise quickly to what looked like flood stage and the current increase dramatically. Dang, we had missed it again! We cleaned up and headed into Blue Ridge for some tasty but seriously over-priced pizza. We drove through town trying to find info on how to get on the AT but everyone was closed. Looks like I should’ve planned better. We’ll have to move the hike to Friday morning.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 6

Day 6


Highlight of the day: The Olympic Whitewater Center. We arrived at the Welcome Center and explored the near dry Ocoee River bed where the 1996 Summer Olympics were held. Had we visited on the weekend we could’ve watched kayakers tackling the hybrid course (it’s partially man-made) in all of its glory. We settled instead for the lower section of the Ocoee where we watched rafters and kayakers alike tossed about on what looked like a thrill ride. Dana and I have done our share of guided whitewater rafting but nothing we’d experienced compared with the river before us. At one point we met Sally and Steve who were canoeing and kayaking, respectively, down the Ocoee and had pulled out for a moment due to Sally having a foot cramp. We talked for nearly half an hour as they offered pointers for we novice paddlers. They told us about a great spot to pull off and watch kayakers “rodeo” named “The Hell Hole.” They weren’t kidding. What a blast. We found a spot under the bridge where we could’ve reached out and touched the boats. We got some great pics and video. We weren’t there very long before our newfound friends made their way through the rapid…at least Sally went through. Her hubby decided to take a gentler path…around the rapid. We waved and cheered as they went by. We literally had to pull ourselves away because of our growling bellies. After a delicious meal of cedar-grilled trout, most of which Dana caught, we chilled for the night.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 7

Day 7


Didn’t sleep much the night before…an hour, maybe two. Got up at 4:45 am, woke up Josiah and we backed quietly out of the drive and pointed the Sports Utility Van toward Springer Mountain (the start of the Appalachian Trail)…or so we thought. After logging over 2 hours of driving, most of which was dusty gravel back roads, we came to the end of our directions and realized we were nowhere near where we wanted to be. Jo rummaged around in the dash and found some similar directions that stated we were supposed to head in the complete opposite direction at a particular juncture. No one, I repeat, no one is conscious in Georgia at this time of the morning so I couldn’t even break the male-stereotype and ask for help. After back-tracking 10 or 12 miles we were once again on course and finally found the parking lot on Springer, which was empty except for one lone black Jeep. Jo and I donned our packs; I slipped into my Father’s Day present (Dana bought me a pair of waterproof Northface hiking boots at a really cool gear shop in Blue Ridge) and after making a quick “wilderness deposit” we sprang toward the white blazes with vigor and excitement. We chose as our destination the first shelter on the trail, Black Gap. We were finally here. Though we were only doing a half-day hike we were stoked to be doing it on the AT. Josiah remarked that though he had been excited at the possibility of one day doing a thru-hike, after having actually set foot on the trail it seemed like something we were supposed to do. It’s what I’ve felt for a while and it was great hearing him say it. The AT was clearly marked and, at least on this section, easy hiking but due to our excursion yesterday I was having some pain in my big toe on my right foot. I’m not sure what it is but it flares up anytime I hike on uneven terrain. About an hour in we arrived at a small footbridge that crossed a little creek. I needed a break so I sat down, pulled off my new boots (which had worn a blister on my pinky toe…same foot) and changed into my trail running shoes. I scrounged around in my pack, found a Zip-lock bag of Advil and munched a handful. It was at the precise moment I swallowed that I thought, “Advil aren’t pink.” Oh crap. No, Advil aren’t pink…Benadryl are. I freaked. Jo said, “Let’s turn around and go back.” Sage advice. Sage advice I’d have to ignore. We’d waited too long and traveled too far to turn back this close to our goal. I examined my options, which were few. The only sensible thing seemed to be getting the pills back up. So while Jo turned away in pity I jammed my ample fingers down my throat. Now, it’s probably important to note here that I absolutely hate throwing up. I can’t stand it and will avoid it at all costs. Just the sensation of feeling my own wet, throat flesh closing around my fingers should’ve been enough to trigger the desired effect…but it wasn’t. After struggling unsuccessfully for several minutes I verbally kicked myself and hopped back on the trail. Crazy enough, within minutes we saw a sign for the shelter. We made it to our goal. After snapping some pics, reading some of the entries in the guestbook and making an entry of our own we started back for the parking lot as the effects of the little pink pills settled in. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot of our trip back up the mountain or our van ride back down the mountain for that matter. I do remember waking up 5 hours later in my bed at the cabin feeling groggy but rested. I was greeted by my beautiful wife who said, “Hey, the dam released. You up for a paddle?” Sure, why not. After a peaceful trip (our 4th this week) down the Toccoa we returned to the cabin where Keith built a campfire of such blazing magnitude it was near impossible to approach with a skewered marshmallow. As if the Smores weren’t enough we followed our bonfire feast up with a visit to a local Dairy Queen the Bigos’ had scouted out earlier in the week. Adventure comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a pecan cluster Blizzard with extra pecans.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 3

Day 3


Woke up to another beautiful day. Dana wasted no time, of course, finding a sweet spot on the river where she spent the morning enticing the trout and landing more than a few. One of these was really, really big. Not as big as mine, of course (tee hee) but big nonetheless. We called the TVA last night to find out when the dam would be released. Of course the pre-recorded message was preceded by the disclaimer that “schedules are subject to change without notice. I ignored the disclaimer. The dam was scheduled to release at 10 am. Perfect. We hoped for an exhilarating trip down the river with a delicious barbecue feast afterward. We showed up early to ensure we didn’t miss the release. We were probably a 30 minute paddle down the river when we realized the disclaimer had come into effect. The previous day’s adventure was about to be repeated. We had 3 options: We could try to paddle back up river, against the current. We could repeat the drudgery of dragging our canoes through the remainder of the trip or we could try option 3. Josiah found a spot that seemed to have road access. We thought we might be able to make our way back to the truck, drive back down, load the canoes and still make it back in time for barbecue. We went for it. After walking about 100 yards we dead ended. We turned back around to break the news to everyone. After minimal discussion we decided to make the paddle downriver. Since we prepared ourselves for the misery ahead it wasn’t nearly so disheartening. We actually made it back to the cabin in about 2 hours, showered, changed clothes and still made it to the restaurant by 2pm for a mouthwatering spread of slow-smoked baby-backs, pulled-pork, chicken and beef. We were so famished that we actually followed up our Romanesque binge with a hot-fudge sundae. Sleep came quickly.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 4

Day 4


Today was Scooby’s day. Dam was scheduled to release at 10am, then 1pm, then 3pm. (Dam you, TVA! Tee hee. Just a sampling of all the dam jokes cracked and yet to be cracked this week). All week Scooby has made it clearly known that he doesn’t like being drugged (We gave him doggy Dramamine), hauled 3 hours away, and then left behind as we paddled down the river, so today…is his day. Jo came along for the ride. Keith and Luke came too…in their canoe. Buddy did not. Buddy is their dog and he’s round like a barrel. He’s more obese than any lab should ever be and he looks like a surgeon we know named Dr. Rowitz (although Dr. Rowitz isn’t fat at all). Michelle says Buddy’s not fat. He’s fat. (Is it just me or do I sound like Junie B. Jones?) As my friend Mark Lowe’s grandma said (of Mark, not Buddy), “I know fat when I see fat and he’s fat, fat, fat.” So Buddy stayed at the cabin. The dam released (or so we thought) at 3pm. We began to slowly paddle and drift as we waited for the river to rise and the current to pick up. It took Scoob a while to get his sea legs and until that time we had some pretty close calls. He saw some cows and a donkey then some ducks. Each time he stood alert and prepared to leave the boat but we talked him down. Basically he did pretty well and seemed to enjoy himself. We arrived back at the cabin about an hour later, just in time to see the dam actually release. As we pulled the boats out of the water we watched the river surge above the rocks. Dana and Michelle had called after we left and found out that they postponed the release until 4pm. Go figure, huh? So we threw caution to the wind and drove to Blue Ridge for some reasonably good and way over-priced pizza, wings and garlic rolls…and greek salad. . When we arrived back at the cabin the river was rushing past and some fellow paddlers told us it was pretty rough. Jo and I excitedly leapt into the canoe and headed for McCaysville. Now is probably a good time to mention that I had several sensible options for take-out that would ensure a safe, quick trip. Of course I chose the one option that made the least amount of sense…McCaysville. Dana would pick us up at Toccoa River Adventures in McCaysville and shuttle us back. Where was I? Oh yeah, we shoved off in the canoe. Again, Scooby was unhappy with being left behind. So he dove in and swam toward the boat. We shouted him back to the bank. He ran along the bank with Buddy in tow. We laughed. Then he jumped in again, and tried, unsuccessfully, to swim upriver. We stopped laughing. We turned and tried to paddle upriver against a substantial current. It wasn’t easy but we were faring better than Scooby. He was fighting against the current and was losing the battle. Jo got him to the bank, dragged him back to the yard and delivered him to Dana who tied him up. This took about 20 minutes. Just in time for the Dam to stop generating. Yeah, almost no current, but we were going to McCaysville, by gosh, come hell or high water. I was hoping for the latter but we ended up with just a touch of the former. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, and thunder rumbled in the distance we paddled and paddled and then paddled some more. The exact implications of my bonehead decision weren’t completely clear but were becoming clearer by the minute. We were enjoying the scenery, much of which could have come directly from the “Deliverance” set. The river shacks were cool to look at but better judgement forbade us saying hi to the neighbors (Two of which looked like they walked right out of a bedroom scene in Lil’ Abner. Yes, I’m aware Lil’ Abner had no bedroom scenes. I’m trying to be delicate here.)
More paddling, awkward smiles and more paddling. What happened to that dam current? Sorry. As darkness began to settle quickly over our surroundings and the lightning began it’s dance, I started to consider our options…which were few…okay two. We could keep paddling and hope that the plastic canoe would act as an insulator or find a place to pull out here in the boonies and hope for a friendly neighbor with a modern communication device like say a telegraph, 2 dixie cups and a length of string or maybe…a phone. Just as these thoughts were working through my mind lightning struck a little closer and Jo asked nervously, “Hey Dad, think maybe we oughta get off the river?” I’m just looking for a spot. Directly around the bend are some of those yard lights. Looked friendly enough, so we banked the canoe and started making our way toward some ladies in a neighboring yard. I walked quickly with my hands waving in what I hoped looked like a benign request for help. It worked. After explaining our situation to our new friend, she offered to just drive us to McCaysville to meet Dana. When we arrived at TRA Dana wasn’t there. Now, my main concern most of this time had been Dana’s sanity. It had been a while and I was afraid she was beyond worried. My goal was to put her mind to ease. When she wasn’t there I started to freak. (I found out later that my concerns were valid. She had been struggling with whether or not to call the “authorities” and gather a search party). We found her just up from our agreed upon spot. She had moved and cut on the headlights to better provide a “target” for us. Long story short? We found her, made our way back to the canoe, shoved it into the back of the van because I forgot the straps (yeah) just as it started to rain. Just before we left, our heroine told us we “just had” to visit the Olympic Whitewater Center on the Ocoee. We assured her we would and made our way back down the dusty gravel roads, grateful to be warm, sheltered and basically dry.

Blue Ridge Journal Day 2

Day 2


Started my day out reading a couple of chapters in Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Still blown away by how God is using this book to remind me of who I am. By mid afternoon we found ourselves in our canoes at the TVA Blue Ridge Dam. Pre-lease, the river is pretty “dry sledding” but we’ve found that at these times the fishing can be spectacular. Today proved to be the exception. None of us were having much success at getting more than a nibble from the myriad trout that could be clearly seen from the canoe, some of which were really big, until…We tied off near a shallow pool where the trout seemed to be gathering for a some sort of a convention. Still nothing seemed to reap any results with these fish. I had tried everything in my box except… Here’s where some explanation is necessary: Aeons ago a fellow fisherman told me his secret to landing the the big boys…a Rapala jig. So, of course, I went right out and bought one, put it in my box and tried it unsuccessfully for the past 15 years. Eventually I lost it. A couple of years ago, a new friend, Roy, said the same. Honestly, if you know Roy, he’s bound to say just about anything so I took it, along with my personal experience, with a grain of salt. The next day he gave me his Rapala Jig, which was much smaller than mine, and by the way was brand new, in the box. Again, I tried this thing repeatedly, only to be ignored. Today, all of that changed. As a desperate, last ditch attempt I tied on the lure. I cast it and the moment it struck the water my rod was nearly jerked out of my hands. For what seemed like an hour but must’ve been only minutes I battled a beast of a trout. True to Hollywood form he leapt out of the water and tried to shake the lure from his mouth. He swam beneath and around the canoe. While Jo and I watched in breathless amazement Dana screamed like a banshee. Eventually I brought him next to the boat and began to stroke his belly to calm him down. He was huge…HUGE! Our best guess is 22- 26″, maybe 3 ½ – 4 pounds and easily 4 or 5 inches from his belly to his back. Mammoth fish. I was using 4 lb test and we had no net so as I reached for this gorgeous fish…you guessed it, he became the one that got away. Sick to my stomach that he was gone, with my lure stuck in his mouth but I sat and contemplated what had just happened. It was an amazing battle and he won but it was worth it just to have been on the other end of that line. After bemoaning my loss, I dug around in my box and found a little Panther martin jig. I tied it on and tossed it in. On the third cast…it happened again! Another trout, almost as big as the last, nailed that jig. I brought it to the side of the boat and again, due to no net, lost it. Yeah, I’ll be buying a net tomorrow.At this point we’re not sure how far we are from the cabin but nightfall is quickly approaching as a thick mist begins to settle on the Toccoa. Both canoes are struggling to get through the many shallow sections of the river. At one point Keith, Michelle and Luke capsize their boat right at the bank which brought on laughter, cursing and some pretty hilarious river calisthenics. We eventually made it back to the cabin where Scooby greeted us by jumping into the river and almost drowning trying to get back out. Jo leapt from the canoe and rescued his sorry St. Labrador butt. Keith decides to try out one of his Rapalas at the cabin and reeled in a monster-brown. Must’ve been at least 24 inches and 4 lbs. It was such an amazing fish that he decided to release it. Fortunately Jo got pictures of this one. What a monster! After the boys and I drove all over Blue Ridge for an hour and a half looking for a net and new lures we came back to the cabin, some of Michelle’s delicious homemade bruschetta and a hot tub. Now that’s adventure!

Blue Ridge Journal Day 1

Day 1


Went to Fred’s house the night before for C-mans 4th b-day party and ended up getting in so late that we didn’t load the van till this morning (Saturday). After piling a weeks worth of clothes, mountain-board, canoe, fishing gear and a freshly laundered Scooby Doo we headed out…sort of. We stopped at Bob Poock’s Hardees for a new creation; I had them combine the the breakfast bowl with the low-carb breakfast bowl for something that probably had about 18,000 fat grams…energy for the road, right?On the way we stopped at one of our favorite stores on the planet, Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi. It’s a popular stop on the Appalachian Trail which if you haven’t noticed, has become an obsession with me. We didn’t encounter any thru-hikers but greeted several section hikers, most of whom had just completed 30 miles or so. While Jo and I were lusting over the gear and amazing t-shirts Dana took Scooby and beat me to the trail. And when she saw us again, believe me, she took no small pleasure in letting us know! So Jo and I took the leash (with the dog) and set-out. Within the course of a matter of minutes we found our first white blaze! We were stoked. (Blazes are just strokes of paint on trees used to identify the trail you’re on. The AT, which stretches from Springer Mountain, GA to Mount Katahdin, Maine..approximately 2175 miles…this year, is identified with white blazes.) Before we found the blaze I told Jo that we’d just walk until we found one. I kept saying, “just a little further.” He said, “Let’s just go. Let’s keep walking.” I was tempted. Later he chuckled and said, “It would make a great book: Woman’s husband, son and dog set out for short walk and don’t come back…for 5 months!” I mused, “Hey babe, we’re in Maine. Come get us, would you?” The appeal of the trail has now become almost mystical for me. Near the white blaze was a tree that Jo, of course, had to climb. As he was monkeying to the top my gaze was drawn back to the path. The allure of the beautiful trail stretched out before me seduced me once more. I reminded myself soon…soon.Once we arrived and got unloaded we looked up the number for the Swan Drive-In. One of the more significant losses I’ve seen in my lifetime is the extinction of the Drive-In movie. When we discovered that one of the rare survivors of the VCR/DVD revolution was just down the road from where we were staying we determined to make a visit. Dana and I as well as Keith and Michelle all have fond memories of the inimitable Drive-In. It’s something we’ve longed for years for Jo to experience. As we were digging up the number we talked about what movie we’d like to see. All of us agreed that either Kung Fu Panda or the new Indian Jones would be fantastic. Dana said, “Wouldn’t it be great if they were showing a double feature?” A feeling of wonderment came over me. Double-feature. A term that from the advent of digital recording technology, had been deleted from our lexicon. While we waited in the stifling heat of a local restaurant for our food to arrive (Apparently the AC was down) Dana made the call to see what was showing. She erupted in a blood curdling scream. I honestly thought we’d won the lottery…even though we’d never played. She informed us that tonight the Swan Drive-In would be showing a double-feature. Yep, you guessed it. Kung Fu Panda and Indiana Jones. We were all pretty worn out but couldn’t pass up a chance like this so we loaded up and headed for the Swan. One of the things I miss the most about the demise of the Drive-In is the pre-film activity. At the Swan, like our own beloved Augusta Rd. Drive In, families gathered in the patch of grass before the giant screen for Frisbee, football, tag, hide and seek and various and sundry other activities. We had a blast. Keith brought a Frisbee and before long kids were gathering from everywhere. The infamous flying disc made it’s long and seemingly random circuit repeatedly, interrupted on occasion by the tag football game which would barrel right through the crowd. It was chaotic, it was crazy and it was beautiful. As nightfall approached we made our way to our camp chairs, opened the back of the sports utility van and cranked up the radio to 101.5 fm. I’m sure the giant soft drinks, corn dogs, nachos and funnel cakes were partially to blame but we all found ourselves nodding out during what were probably two pretty good films. It was never really about the movies anyway. Good times.

We’re Back!

Wow, we’re back. It’s Monday morning and we hit the ground running. What was supposed to be an easy week is panning out to be more insanity for the day job. This past week was a blast and more so than ever we need a vacation from our vacation. We’re wasted and back in the grind. Here’s where my life philosophy gets tested…during the monotony and drudgery of daily life. Can I live truly alive in the midst of this? God willing.

While we were in Blue Ridge I kept a journal which, of course, could be aptly described as the ramblings of a madman. I think it’ll be interesting reading for those of you who are curious. I’ll begin posting the entries from that journal daily (10 days late) starting tomorrow along with some killer pics from the week.

Last night I got a phone call from my dad who told me that Mark McD, a friend of the family, had called. He had visited the site and said we need some pics of the product up with pricing. I agree. I so agree. Problem is, right now, the budget only allows for that crappy homemade page that’s up there right now. Takes money to make money goes the old adage. Anyhow, I still appreciate the input and all the encouragement. We’ll continue to pursue getting that dream site done but in the meantime, be patient and join the journey as we keep you updated on our myspace and virb accounts.

thanks again!

david l.

Irresistible Revolution

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Period.

Years of full-time ministry depleted me of the essence of who God created me to be. The last 5 or 6 years have been a slow process of introspection, healing (not always fun) and and restoration. This book was the final puzzle piece in this process. (Or at least it seems so) God used Shane to remind me of things that I am now shocked I’d ever forgotten. Read it, and join the journey.

Currently reading:
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
By Shane Claiborne