A few months after I met LC I told him that I was going for a bike ride at the base and he surprisingly told me that he wanted to ride as well.
He did not have a bike.
Had not ridden a bicycle since he was a kid.
Since I had a road bike and a mountain bike and two helmets, I took the bike with the skinny tires and he took the bike with the fat tires and we set out, staying on the roads.
Because LC had not ridden a bike in his adult life I fully expected that he would have a weak legged and gear grinding experience, and for a while that is exactly how his ride played out.
I smiled as this new man in my life slowly pulled his way up the rolling hills of the base, wholly appreciative of the fact that he wanted to ride with me.
And I silently cringed each time he ground the gears, hoping that he would not break my bike and cost me too much money in repairs.
Eventually we found our way onto jeep trails and since I was riding a road bike I predictably ended up getting a flat tire, and after changing it out we headed back to the parking lot via the paved roads again.
The following weekend LC came down to Tullahoma to visit me again and in the week leading up to that visit he had gone to Walmart and bought himself a BSO.
A Bicycle Shaped Object.
I smiled when I saw it because it was the lowest of the low cheap end mountain bikes, but I also smiled because LC had liked biking so much the previous week - had liked biking with me - that he wanted to do it again.
We took our mountain bikes out to the base and laughed and talked and joked as we began on easy jeep trails, he getting used to the feel and rhythm of the bike and the gears.
After a while we began to wander on the winding single track trails, with LC leading the way so that he could set his own pace and me pulling up the rear giving him pointers as he went.
As we continued to ride LC began to talk about all of the biking he had done as a kid, and he shared outrageous stories of things that boys outrageously do when they are very young and in a group and indestructible and have boundless energy with an endless world of wide-eyed adventures in front of them.
As I watched him bike I saw the years fall away from him and he was smiling and laughing like that young boy he had talked about.
Also as I watched him I realized that technically he could be a much better rider than I was.
I hadn't grown up on a bike.
I spent all of my youth training hard in a gym in judo and karate, did not get my first bike until I was 12 (which I rode only rarely), and until I began adventure racing had never ridden a bike with gears.
When we veered off single track again and picked up another road it dead ended into tall weeds and grass.
I assumed that we would turn back.
My Mountain Boy barreled right through the tall grass and we rode and bushwhacked through that mess until we again hit another road.
It was at the moment that I looked at him and thought for the first time "he could do an adventure race"................
I raised the topic the next weekend that I saw LC and surprisingly he smiled at me, and agreed to it.
I signed us up as a two person team for a six hour race in central GA in mid-August which was a couple of months away.
I did not usually race in mid-August because the heat and humidity at that time of year in the South sucks every ounce of energy and stamina that I had.
I had had a couple of heat exhaustion experiences early on in my adventure racing escapades and found (and still find) training outdoors to be a tough experience in the summer.
But this race was only six hours long, we would be moving at a slow pace, and I was excited to be able to share this part of my life with someone who I was still getting to know, but also someone who I was coming to like very much.
After he said yes to the race, I was also kicking myself for bringing the issue up in the first place because LC still had ongoing physical issues related to injuries he sustained in the line of duty when he was a cop.
We biked regularly (LC had bartered for a real mountain bike by that time) and without stress leading up to the race, and neither one of us had any goals beyond having fun and trying to finish the race.
But we both also went into the race with the pact that it was OK if we did not finish the race and we would pull out at any time.
The weekend of the race turned out to be the hottest weekend of the year, with a high that eventually reached a horrendous 102 degrees.
We alternated carrying the map, we hiked, we biked, we had no major mechanical or medical issues, we finished.
We actually finished mid-pack which was surprising and delightful.
LC made hills on bike that I could not top because of the heat, but as usual I had more endurance overall.
A couple of hours before the end of the race we were on foot in the middle of nowhere, and we stood on a hilltop acutely aware of the time and wondering how the heck we were going to make it back to the finish before the cutoff.
The race started in late afternoon so that teams could race into the evening (with race officials hoping to keep athletes away from the worst of the heat).
As we stood on the hilltop watching the sun slowly (and thankfully) begin to descend onto the horizon we debated whether to bushwhack across country or swim back.
LC's legs were shot.
We decided to swim.
We swam a mile back to the cove close to the race finish, in the dark and in water than was so warm it was like swimming in spit.
LC had a strong military background in the water. I also had a strong background in the water, but not while wearing clothes and shoes and carrying a pack and at night.
And during that section of the race I deferred to his experience. I was uncomfortable in that unfamiliar setting and he talked me through it.
I lost an expensive headlamp when it (unnoticed by me until it was already rapidly sinking to the bottom of the lake) slid off my head.
I hated that. I had no idea when I first started racing but over the years I turned into an outdoor gear junkie, and I hated losing my beloved new piece of equipment.
It was a hot, tiring, great race, and I never thought when I met LC that we would actually have the opportunity to race together.
But we did...............
I biked single track late yesterday afternoon and headed back to my truck close to 5pm.
The sun had already begun to drop lower in the sky and as I loaded my bike into the bed of the truck I looked at the sky and with satisfaction realized that the days were getting longer.
Spring is close.
To this point it is almost like we never really had a winter. No ice storms. One light snowfall that quickly melted away. A few cold days, but mostly mild and sometimes sunny often times rainy days.
But regardless, Spring is close.
Instead of driving straight home I pulled a jacket on over my shirt and vest, climbed into the truck and headed for UTSI.
I wanted to walk along the shore briefly - take pictures of the water, maybe catch the sun setting.
I pulled into a spot in the quiet parking lot on the left side of the building, climbed out, walked down the grassy hill to the water and immediately saw these two geese across and on the other side of the cove................
A side view of UTSI..............
The water was quiet.
Not completely flat, but rippling against the slight wind that had developed as the sun was beginning to set............
Walking along the sandy and gravely shore I turned back to snap this picture of the back of the building.
This campus is amazingly beautiful.
It feels (and is) very isolated, nestled into a cove and overlooking the vast water of Woods Reservoir.
Just like the University of the South up in Sewanee, UTSI feels like it is in a different world from the rest of the area.
I love it simply because it is beautiful, always quiet, and provides me with an endless world of easy-to-access recreational opportunities.
My home away from home for many years...............
After spending a long time walking the shore adjacent to the campus I climbed back into my truck.
I drove back towards the mountain bike trails.
At the 4-way intersection I stopped for a brief moment.
The road to the right led to the bike trails.
The road straight in front of me was the usual route I drove to head for home.
I had just a little more daylight left, and on the spur of the moment turned left, half-heartedly intending to stop at one more cove before finally driving to the house.
As I reached the bridge and the parking area on the left though, I looked to my right and unexpectedly saw beautiful reflections in the water.
Momentarily indecisive as to where to park I found myself already driving over the bridge
I was tired and getting cold, and for a brief moment decided "to heck with it - I'll just go home".
And right after that I found myself pulling the truck off the road and parking it on the grass on the shoulder.
I climbed out and walked back to the bridge, looked to the left and right of me and saw these scenes in the rapidly dying sunshine.................
I was cold. I was tired. I was hungry. I had had a great ride.
I made one more stop on the way home, veering down a side street close to the house so that I could stop at a convenience store.
Which I regretted quickly because on the way home I annoyingly got stuck at the railroad crossing.
Yes. Getting tired and cranky.....
In the now darkness I watched as this long (they're always long) train slowly made its way past me but became more watchful when I finally read the signs that were located on a regular basis on the sides of the cars.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus.
I was surprised to see the signs because usually the trains that pass this way are industrial and commercial transport trains.
As I continued to watch the train I smiled to myself, killing time by wondering if I would see the heads of elephants or giraffes sticking up through the top of the train cars like I used to see in Disney cartoons when I was a kid..................
Remember the high board at the swimming pool? After days of looking up at it you finally climbed the wet steps to the platform. From there, it was higher than ever. There were only two ways down: the steps to defeat or the dive to victory. You stood on the edge, shivering in the hot sun, deathly afraid. At last you leaned too far forward, it was too late for retreat, and you dived. The high board was conquered, and you spent the rest of the day diving. Climbing a thousand high boards, we demolish fear, and turn into human beings.....................Richard Bach A Gift of Wings