Saturday, July 3, 2010

Date Night!

A couple weeks ago Allie and I got to talking about how I needed to take some initiative, make decisions, and take her out on dates. A few days later I received a promotional email from Texas Motor Speedway about their "Summer Stampede" series and I thought to myself "PERFECT!" I opted to wait and go this past week because they were shooting off fireworks which is something else that Allie loves and we haven't experienced together.
It was a surprise date, Allie knew we were going out, but no idea what we doing or where we were going. I thought for sure that she was going to figure out where we were going as soon as I got on 1171. Luckily, Allie was on the phone and we never stopped for food so we had to drive past the speedway to get something to eat, which aided in throwing her off as to our destination. Needless to say, she had no idea that's where we were going until we did a u-turn to head back to the track.
The speedway's "Summer Stampede" is a series of local drivers racing Legends cars on TMS's quarter-mile track, every Thursday, all summer. It makes for a cheap date because its only five bucks a person to get in! For those of you who aren't in the know about Legends cars, they are 1/5 scaled 1920s and 30s coupes and wagons, powered by a 1300cc Yamaha motorcycle engine. We had a blast, even though the fireworks were not the best display ever, haha. Several accidents and one blown engine happened over the course of eight races. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go and support their local drivers. By the time we left, Allie was wanting to get me one so I could go race, too!Bandolero cars (kinda like a super go-kart)
Legends cars
Kinda gives an idea of the size of a Legends car
Not Kyle Busch fans, but it was a Cup car on display and I love me some NASCAR

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not-so Engagement Photo Shoot

Due to the fact that Allie and I got married after only being engaged for a month and a half, we never had the chance to have any professional "engagement pictures". Personally, I don't believe that I'm very photogenic, so I'm not a big fan of being in pictures. Allie on the other hand loves attention and being in the spotlight. As her daddy always said, "Head to toe, she's in the show!" I went along with Allie's desire for professional photos, and this is what the result was. Thanks to David & Andrea Johnson of Johnson Photography, Inc of Charlotte, NC for their patience and talent! Here's a few of the pictures that I kinda liked.Hope you enjoyed them!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Down on the Farm! Thanksgiving 2008

I'm sure everyone has family traditions for holidays, mine being no different. It usually involves all of my siblings heading to my parents for a big ol' buffet. This particular year my younger brother, Fat, was working for a corn maze called Aww Shucks.
Well down at Aww Shucks, there was not only a maze, but also a petting zoo of farm animals and hayrides. Fat was a fairly competent employee (the owners favorite, not to brag) and had keys to everything there. The owner allowed Fat to take us all down to the farm and show us around, even though they were technically closed. We all enjoyed an amazing lunch prepared by my mom and sisters, then piled in the cars and headed off to see the little animals. After playing with all the little critters, Fat even taught all of us guys how to drive a big John Deere. It was good times!
Cooking in the driveway
Everyone eatin' some grub
Charlotte didn't get her way
Teachin' the injun how to drive a tractor
Baby bro is a smooth operator...even if he is drinkin' and drivin'!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Windhorst, Kansas, May 2009

For the first adventure with my family, my loving wife (then girlfriend) rode in my parents' Explorer from Charlotte, NC to Little Rock, AR. My younger brother and I were at National Camping School for the BSA and would rendezvous with Allie, mom, dad, and Skeezer in Little Rock the next day (Friday). On Saturday morning we all got up and drove from Little Rock to Dodge City, KS. On the way to Dodge, we stopped in Greensburg and looked at the town which was completely destroyed in a EF5 tornado.

I'm sure everyone is wondering why on Earth would anyone want to spend time in Kansas, with it being mind-numbingly flat and a huge lack of things to do. All of that aside, my great-grandparents were some of the founding citizens of the town of Windhorst, just outside of Dodge City. We went out there for a family reunion and a school reunion for anyone who attended the school in Windhorst. My grandma was the last of our family to attend the school and coincidently both reunions fell on the same day, so we started at one and then went to the next. The old school burned down some time ago, but they had the reunion/cookout inside the old foundation of the school. They also unveiled a marble monument with all of the graduates of the Windhorst School. Down the road from the school is the cemetary for the town, and I'm pretty much related by blood or marriage to every person buried inside those gates. Allie was a trooper and hung out with my crazy family for the entire weekend and didn't complain once! If I didn't know by that point, that would have been the sure-fire sign that she was a keeper! To this day, when we pass a car on the highway with Kansas plates or see the Jayhawks on tv, I'll catch Allie sayin' "I miss Kansas."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ocean Isle Beach, July 2009

2009 had to be one of the best summers of my life. I went from Texas to the Outer Banks of NC, Arkansas to Kansas, back to Texas. From Texas I headed back to North Carolina and then to Virginia for my summer job. Now, given that my summer "job" was more like vacation, its hard to say that my trip to OIB was a vacation, but technically it was. I had taken a week off of my "job" to go to the beach with Allie's family. We had fun in the sun, did some deep sea fishing, and even got engaged. That's right, this is when the love of my life agreed to marry me!
Early in the week, Wade (the neighbor across the street) took us out on the Atlantic to wrangle in some fish. Wade and his son were seasoned veterans of the deep sea fishing craft, so as we got "bites" we alternated who would reel them in. The official count for the day was 13 king mackeral, 2 spanish mackeral, 2 sand sharks, and a barracuda. I had the pleasure of bringing in the 'cuda, and let me tell you, he fought me every inch of the line. Allie said I had it coming since I waited for everyone else to bring one in before I took my turn. This little venture actually perked an interest in fishing. Its way more fun and physically demanding than Jeff Foxworthy makes it out to be.

For all of the sappy people out there, the proposal went like this. Two weeks before heading to OIB, I was in San Marcos, TX for the wedding of Allie's long-time BFF, Erin. I asked Erin to dance and after complimenting her on how gorgeous she was and what a good time her wedding had been, I asked her for some insight. I told her I was planning on asking Allie to marry me, but wasn't sure when the best time would be. It was a toss up between the OIB trip and her birthday. Erin did not hesitate and said "the beach, for sure!" Now that I knew when, I needed some paternal permission. You guessed it, I had "the talk" with Allie's dad at Erin's reception. Classy move, right? (Did I mention this was only the second time I'd ever seen her parents?) Anyway, Pat gave me green light, and now all I had to do was get a ring and figure out what I would say.

All week at the beach I tried to convince Allie we should just go to the courthouse and get hitched, but she wanted a ring and engagement. I responded that maybe when she was older she could have all of that, clearly hinting at her birthday. When I decided on what to say, I asked Allie if we could go for a walk on the beach. She obliged and after a few short delays, off we went. We walked along the moon-lit beach talking about our potential futures together. I quickly switched conversation to how special OIB was to us, and how seeing as it was the first place I told her I loved her, it was only fitting that be the place to propose to her. Dropped to one knee, asked her what needed to be asked and I think its pretty obvious what her response was. Needless to say, that trip helped me get where I am today, happily married. This is also why Ocean Isle Beach will always have a special place in my heart. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mount Rogers Nat'l Recreation Area, VA, September 2008

Our Trail Crew

Back in the day of living in North Carolina, my friends and I tried to go backpacking at least once a month. Occasionally A-ha and I would squeeze an extra trip or two in each month, but as a group we'd go once. This month we went to the tried and true Grayson Highlands of Virginia. If you've never been, GO. The raw, natural beauty of this place could make a believer out of the most devout atheist. I've always felt closer to God out in woods. I don't know why. I feel out of place in a church, but in the wilderness its almost like He is there hiking with me. Ann got me a really nice compact Bible that I carried with me all summer on every trip I took. I would read it while relaxing in my hammock every night. Just thinking about it makes me miss it even more.
On to the trip! We had seven guys on this hike, my assistant scoutmaster Dennis, my good buddy Derek, then the usual Fat, A-ha, Grady, Puffy, and myself. We stopped in Chick-fil-a and grabbed a bite to eat before heading out, and as we left they were giving away free gallon sweet teas! They gave each of us one! SEVEN GALLONS OF SWEET TEA!!! It was awesome!!! We arrived up at Grayson Highlands State Park at night, as we always do on group trips, and this particular trip was exceptionally foggy. We set up shop just north of the Wise shelter. After setting up our shelters and making dinner, we hit the hay. We got up the next morning, heading to Scales where we ate lunch. From there we hiked up the Crest Trail to Rhodendron Gap and then on to Thomas Knob.
Up on Thomas Knob we dipped into Fat's "stash". Being a glutton for punishment, Fat always carries a sixty pound pack, regardless of how short the trip. On this particular hike, he carried out a half-gallon of Captain Morgan's spiced rum. This is probably going to sound a little disgusting, but Captain Morgan's and Crystal Lite makes for a pretty tasty drink. If you use freshly filtered water it is actually pretty cold and fairly refreshing. We built a fire, made dinner, worked on the rum, and had a good campfire conversation.
After a little reading and then some sleep, we got up, broke camp, and headed for our ritual destination after a Mount Rogers. The Log House restaurant for some LOG DOGS!!! These things are amazing! Quarter pound hotdog with chili, mustard, onions, and slaw....mmmm...mmmm...good! I've hiked in that park a million times and that is where we always finish! Check'em out!
After lunch we drove a little further up the rode, busted out the bibs and helmets, then headed below the surface into Robert's Cave. This cave has two entrances, one you can walk in and then there is the "mole hole", a small tunnel you have to crawl on your belly. Much better way to feed the need for adventure! After we crawled around the cave for an hour, we washed up in the creek across the road and headed home! This was probably one of my favorite trips, just given all the fun we had and the good group of guys we had go with us!
Fat heading in the "Mole Hole"
Derek and Puffy in the "Mole Hole"
Derek and I exploring the cave
Fat hanging on a stalagmite
Puffy crawling out of the "Mole Hole"
Derek, Puffy, and A-ha washing off the mud in the creek

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

National Camping School, May 2009

This past summer I was the High Adventure Director for a Boy Scout camp in North Carolina. Before I could do this, I had to get nationally certified as a trek leader. In order to do this, I had to spend a week out on the coast of North Carolina, sit in a classroom forever, but we got to go on a little trip. We originally planned on paddling from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout, camp there, then paddle up to Ocracoke, camp there, and then paddle back to Harkers.
We got out to Harkers and had 19 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 26 mph. This gave the sound 2-4 foot swells. Definitely not the ideal paddling conditions. Of our group of seventeen, four of us wanted to go out. A few of the guys in the course were from land-locked states, and did not want to chance tides and rough conditions. Two-thirds of the sound are less then three feet deep, but there was no convincing the rest of the group. Instead we went to lunch in the town of Beaufort, walked around a bit, saw a cemetary from the 1700s, then went to Fort Macon and took in a little more history. After scoping that out, we went to the Croatan National Forest and set up camp along the White Oak River. The next morning we got up packed everything into our kayaks and went for a leisurely paddle to the "sea".
Most of my experience kayaking is whitewater, small boats that turn quickly and fast, unforgiving water. This trip was my first experience in one of the big ol' bus-like touring kayaks. The first thing they asked our group was "who has paddling experience?" Then the next thing they said was "if it was whitewater, throw everything you think you know about paddling out the window, it won't save you here". For instance, whitewater boats have solid pegs to brace off of to aid in balance, but touring boats have pedals that turn a rudder to help steer the huge contraption they call a boat. Well this put a huge damper on balance, every swell we hit when trying out the boats in the bay, I would try to brace for it and just end up turning. Not cool. Very frustrating. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about swells on the White Oak.
I love to help and lead, so getting started I helped everyone get in their boats, get their sprayskirts attached, and put them in the water. I was the last one in, then immediately paddled to the front to see what was going on. Then paddled to the rear to see how far we were spread out. The guys in the back were just floating, not wanting to waste energy, boring as could be, so I paddled back to the front. I started to get hot, so I took my PFD off to take my shirt off and it felt so good I didn't want to put my PFD back. I ended up paddling the last two miles topless, and it was amazing!

After we got off the White Oak, we went up to Emerald Isle, NC and put the boats in the ocean. Waaaaaaaaay harder than I expected. You have to time the waves (which come in threes, I learned) and paddle like hell. Only about eight of us tried, only two succeeded. My problem was my sprayskirt. It wasn't neoprene like my whitewater skirt, so when the breaker came over the boat, it would pop the skirt off. The next wave would fill the boat with water. This makes balance almost impossible. The next wave would flip you, if you hadn't flipped already. One of the guys from a land-locked state had never gone swimming in the ocean in his life. He had never heard of a rip current before. Needless to say, my younger brother and I went baywatch style out to get him. Now, you never, ever go out for someone if you're not properly trained. Fat and I were both in PFDs from playing in the boats and know a thing or two about the tides. I've never had anyone thank me so much in my life as this guy did. When we explained to him what was going on, he said "shouldn't the ocean come with some kind of a warning?" We spent a little more time playing in the ocean before heading to a steakhouse where our instructor bought everybody's dinner. Super nice guy! By the end of the trip, I was talking to the camp director (who is a personal friend of mine) about acquiring one of the camp's old boats. Definitely a good idea for the Charlotte area where there is a shortage of nearby whitewater. Even better for the Dallas area where there is lack of hills so there is NO whitewater. I think everyone should give a try. Hope you enjoy the pictures!