Early on the brilliantly clear and sunny Sunday of October 19, 2008, Bob Laney took his new friends from his neighborhood on a hiking trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains. High school aged brothers Dakota and Dalton and Dalton's friend Josh joined Bob in his driveway to pack his canary yellow Xterra. We had some discussions about what to wear and what to take. Dalton and Dakota's mom had packed plenty of nutritious sandwiches and drinks. Bob decided that we needed more packs, more clothes, more water and less soda. Bob provided another pack and we all trooped over to Mary Beth's kitchen to re-load the provisions.
Over the long weekend of September 12 - 14, 2008, David Smith and I (Bob Laney) went to Morehead City for deep sea ship wreck diving. We traveled nearly to the Gulf Stream, far out in the Atlantic Ocean. Paul Anderson and David originally planned the trip under the aegis of Blue Dolphin Dive Shop in Winston-Salem, NC. Then Paul developed back pain from training for a snorkeling trip to the Caribbean later this fall and had to cancel. Without Paul, David was left without a dive buddy, which is required. The dive master on the boat can assign a buddy to a solo diver, but there is such a strong bond of reliance between buddies, like rock climbing, that it is better to bring your own.
Every Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend for most of the 21st century, and a few years before, my hunting buddy Bill Booth and I have joined Mike Haire and his son Tom for the opening day of dove hunting at various fields they own around Rutherford County. The Haires are known for their close ties to the land, avid hunting and fishing, generations of farming and Mike's wizardry with preparing fields to dove hunt. The catch is the land has to be seeded and tilled with sufficient grain to attract the flying doves, without running afoul of the game laws that forbid having too much fresh bait on the ground.
On a sunny August Saturday in 2008, I had a chance to go rock climbing with my nephews Robert Parker and Matthew Laney. They both attended NCSU as engineering students. We went to Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes County. I had rock climbed a half-dozen times before, but had not received any formal training.
The summer of 2008 I learned something about athletic tapering. And about spirituality. My friend Bill Dunn is an active runner. He gave me some old copies of Runner's World magazine. RW has many articles about training for a marathon. One of their tips is to start tapering two weeks before the race. The idea is to reduce your training runs to far fewer miles, and the last couple days before the race not to run at all. Common sense seems to dictate that going so long without exercise, you would lose your conditioning in the interim. But the expert coaches say your body will keep its conditioning for those two weeks, it will heal of any minor injuries and will save up energy.
In early July I ran 6 miles at a 10 minute / mile pace. It was not planned -- I just felt good and did it. That is obviously no great athletic feat. I am not a threat to make the Olympic team. Will McElwee could probably beat me running backwards. But it was my personal best; I had never run that far, that fast. Then for various reasons I did not get to run, or hardly any other exercise, for over the next two weeks. [Okay, I paddled my canoe 10 miles on the New River on Saturday, but that is a different story!]
Then, yesterday evening after work, I had the bright idea to pedal the 7 mile mountain bike Over Mountain Victory Trail at the Lake, the full length out and back, for a total of 14 miles. That distance is not a great amount of road bike mileage, but on a mountain bike trail, it is a major workout. Business kept me at the office until 6:45 p.m., which left only 2 hours until sunset ' about ' hour less than my normal time for this route. I would have to go fast and press hard to finish in daylight. Remembering the over-two-week gap with little exercise, I expected to finish by walking my bike the last couple miles in the dark. Being a good Boy Scout, there was a headlamp in my backpack.
I don't have a way to measure my speed while biking, except for the gear my bike is using. The first 15 or so times that I biked the trail, the average was - of the time in 1st gear (the slowest) and - of the time in 2nd gear. After 6 months or so, I had worked up to about - the time in 2nd gear. A couple months ago I progressed to - of the time in 3rd gear. Like any other athletic endeavor, faster is harder. You have to exert more pedal power, concentrate to stay on the trail, not to slide or bounce off, and avoid hitting trees or sliding down embankments.
On yesterday's trip, my pace surged!! This ride was head-and-shoulders above my best prior time. I averaged almost - the time in 3rd gear and a few stretches in 4th gear. Woo-hoo!! There were occasions when it felt like my bike was flying. Other times, I had to stand up in the pedals to absorb the pounding of the bumpy trail shooting by underneath. It felt like I was carving a wave on a surfboard-riding the slope of the mountain downhill.
Not only was the tapering working, but a necessary component of the speed was the need to beat sunset and the desire to do so. I would not have attained this level if I had started earlier in the afternoon. When several positive factors come together, it is a wonderful occasion!
Truthfully, there was another component of the trip. As the ride progressed - as I got tireder and sorer, and the daylight grew dimmer - I had a number of strangely up-close and personal encounters with a wide array of wildlife. Rabbits and deer strangely did not move away from the trail, but just stood and looked at me. Fireflies swirled around me. Beautiful, tall, bright-white mushrooms lined the trail - like the lights that people install beside their walkways. As it got darker, these mushrooms reflecting the last bit of daylight seemed to glow, and literally lit up the trail to show me the way.
There were long stretches of darkness under the trees, followed by short bursts into slightly brighter sections crossing open fields. Eventually, I could not see the individual rocks and roots in the trail. That is dangerous, since a biker has to see the rugosities to know where to lean, swerve, brake and accelerate. To keep up my speed, I got to the point of relying on subconscious knowledge of the trail and trusting that it would be safe. I felt that I was exercising some kind of spiritual faith. Everything felt more connected to nature and creation, calmer, sweeter and more fun. There was a paternal, protective presence. I felt like God was saying, repeatedly, happily, joyously: 'Hi, Bob! Here I am! Isn't this cool!' And it was-
On the beautifully sunny mid-summer Saturday of July 26, 2008, soon after Debbie's elective surgery, Ranger Bob (me) got out of the house to play with the next generation. Joined by nephews Mathew Laney and Robert Parker, and their brides Liz and Meredith, we made a leisurely paddle trip down the South Fork of the New River. The put-in was Zaloo's Canoes and the take-out was the US 221 bridge about 10 miles down stream.
One hot and sunny afternoon in late May, 2008, Ranger Bob took a workout ride on the Over Mountain Victory Trail. It lies between the south side of Kerr Scott Lake and the north side of NC 268, to the west of Wilkesboro, NC. The trail was built and is maintained by the Brushy Mountain Cycling Club on land owned by the US Corps of Engineers. The trail is a wonderful creation of cycling dynamics. The guys who built it really knew their stuff. It is a mountain bike single track, with loads of sharp curves, short but steep up and down hills and narrow passes between trees, rocks and ravines. The trail surface is occasional smooth dirt interspersed with near constant rocks, roots, washboards and little ski ramp type jumps. Bicyclists from all over western NC and other states come here to enjoy the trail.
Over the long weekend of March 28 '-30, 2008, Jim Smoak, Kelly Pipes and Bob Laney backpacked over the top of Grandfather Mountain, camped two nights and hiked back out. Lead by Ranger Bob, the idea was to get in a winter backpacking trip, at the end of the season when conditions would not be too brutal. If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, then we got bit by winter's last tooth and growl. On Sunday, we were in freezing rain and a few flakes of snow. But by the following Tuesday afternoon, I was playing tennis in short pants and a t-shirt.
I wish I had more and better photos to show for this trip. Unfortunately, I carried my camera in an outside pocket, without insulation or access to body heat. Apparently the cold (the wind chill was somewhere below 0 degrees) sapped the battery power or froze the parts, and the camera failed about half way up the mountain, just before I got to the scotch tape ice and rime ice ['more on that below]. Photos # 5 - 9 are from another trip 33years earlier, of the same trail in the same weather conditions.
Over the stormy weekend of March 7 - 9, 2008, Debbie Laney competed in her first half marathon. The 13.1 miles in Morehead City and Atlantic Beach was the longest distance she had run in her life - ever - including training and many long runs when she used to jog years ago.