Monday, September 12, 2011

Can You Go Back? - Part 2

For the first few days we were back in Tennessee we did exactly the same thing that we did when we first hit Montana and then Wyoming.
We traveled.
We drove and we walked and we drove some more, jacked up on adrenalin and stress and doubt and excitement and both of us unable to still either our bodies or our minds.
Only this jacked up travel early last week was different.
We were not only moving because we were still unable to stop.
We were also moving because of eagerness to at least see - even briefly until we could find a way to slow down - places that had meant so much to us when we were both here in Tennessee 20 months ago.
We pulled off I-24 as we had so many times in the past when we first arrived near our home in Tullahoma, and drove through "the base".
Arnolds Air Force Base and home of Arnolds Engineering Development Center.
Yes...........there are rocket scientists here.  NASA testing and development facilities.  And UTSI (University of Tennessee Space Institute) a school where students from across the world come to get PhD's in engineering::
Also outside the base gates are untold miles of mountain bike and running trails both groomed and overgrown, and I spent years and years training at this place.
Sometimes not, but usually and happily and blissfully alone.
"The base" was my haven during good times and bad, through illness and injury and serious training and recreational training and recovery both physical and mental.
I have biked unknown miles of trails.  Ran them as well.
I have kayaked year in and year out in hot weather and very cold weather, in flat water and scary-big choppy weather.
Spent time sitting along trails cursing at the chiggers and the ticks and the poison ivy and the heat, and eating sandwiches and sandwich cookies (vanilla) and drinking watered-down Gatorade.
I have bush-whacked over multiple square miles of land setting up flags for navigation trainings I organized for the adventure racing club I belonged to, of which I was the Nashville Branch Director.
I have sat on the edge of picnic tables by the water and looked out over the lake until dark, and hit the water so early in the morning it was barely light out when I was training for my first triathlon a year before I switched to adventure racing.
The picture above is of a trail gnome. 
Many trails around Nashville have their own trail gnome - a mystical being who is meant to bring both happiness and safe travels to all who journey on that particular trail.
The base did not have a gnome, so one day I went to Lowes Hardware and bought one. 
He was all green and before leaving him at the mountain bike trail head I wrote some lame poem on the bottom of him where "gnome" and "safety to all who roam" etc. etc. was included.
And then I surreptitiously left him at the trail head.
One person asked me if I had left him there and I told him no.
After all......................trail gnomes appear from who-knows-where and belong to everyone who travels that trail.
No-one knows where gnomes come from.
They just appear.
When I visited "the base" just briefly the other day, again with everything feeling both foreign and familiar at the same time, I was very gratified to find him still there.
He is no longer green.
Someone has taken the time to paint him.
I checked the bottom of him just to make sure he was the same guy - yup - gnome, roam, other bad rhyming.
He has been there for two years now, and is indeed the base trail gnome.
Such a small thing.
It is a small thing that brings me great peace and makes me smile....................

I stood at the entrance to the mountain bike trail and walked into the woods just a short ways and looked around me.
Jamie wanted to walk further but not that day.
LC and I looked at each other and wordlessly smiled at each other.
Walking back out of the woods I looked around me some more.
Many of the trees and bushes have grown up so much in the time I have been gone.
I used to hide my kayak deep in the tall weeds while I mountain biked, then drive across the road to Woods Reservoir, chain my bike to a post while I paddled on the lake.
I had a system.
Don't fuck with the system................
The sign at the end of the field says "horse trail".
It's actually a long uphill, winding and rutted out gravel road that soon dead-ends and leads to a few different trails.
I would run into groups of horse riders occasionally.  The odd mountain biker or two.  I never ran into another runner in all the years I was out there.
There are specific and measured bike loops but I never followed the entire loop.
I knew most of the mountain bikers that went out there because I would eventually run into them and they were always the same faces.
The guys always wanted to try and beat their loop times.
I always wanted to just explore and wander and ride and climb hills and sometimes even had to bike whack, always getting badly scratched up in the process..
I saw portions of the base the others never did.................
Across the road from the bike trails and gravel parking lot is Woods Reservoir:
There is a kids play park, bar-b-que pits, picnic tables, guarded beach area, and the reservoir itself...............
A few months after I met LC I decided that I wanted to swim from where we were on the beach across the reservoir to the shore in this picture.
I had not swum in open water for a few years and asked him to follow me in a kayak just to keep me pointed in the right direction.
I made it across but was tired by the time I got there and suggested that he kayak back while I hold onto the back and kick.
Half way across and in the middle of the lake we got the bright idea to switch places. 
I would paddle and he would kick.
Bad idea.
As LC climbed out of the boat it flipped and immediately became full of water.
So now we are in the middle of a lake with a swamped kayak and no way to bail the water out.
It took over an hour with both us dragging a very very heavy boat to shore.
I was about 47 at the time and he was about 60 at the time and people who are those ages are not supposed to get themselves into those kinds of ridiculous positions.
We still laugh about it..........
Our bikes and bike gear is all buried somewhere deep on the trailer, and will stay there until we move back into our house at the end of the month.
My shorts are also buried somewhere in a box on the trailer but I know where my running shoes are.
I will spend time on the trails soon and take pictures.................
We are staying at a cabin not far from Lynchburg Tennessee right now and it is a beautiful and quiet drive into Tullahoma to shop or eat.
I had lunch with two old friends from work just before coming to the library to blog.
Yesterday we spent time with my oldest son and his wife.
More familiar.  More foreign.  But all very good.
LC and I both had the same thought, but only verbalized it with each other this week.
Neither one of us think that if we had moved straight back to Tennessee after leaving Juneau that it would have felt like the right thing to do.
We were so stressed.  So angry.  So disappointed.  So........many other things.
We needed space and time and more space, and Wyoming was a very good fit for us at that very moment.
We have only been back for a week. 
But it feels OK.
Pictures taken from the top of a ridge just outside of Lynchburg.
Still random pictures for now..................... 
A quilt design on the side of a small storage shed in Lynchburg.
More on those at another time, but they are seen frequently on the outside of barns in the area............
The front of the small cabin we are staying in while we catch our breath and find our way back...............

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