Test Post for email subscribers

Hello. I have had at least one subscriber mention that it does not seem like their email subscription has carried over from the old boneofcontention1.wordpress.com to the new home of the blog here at nickrenfroe.com. I think i did everything that i could to avoid these kinds of problems, but I am not a WordPress ninja. I don’t even think i have my white belt yet.

I will do my best to not have many of these test messages. Thanks you for your patience and understanding. Please accept this image of Lucas in a submission pose as Guthrey looms over him as a nuisance fee.

G+L.PA
G+L.PA

Merry Christmas Eve Day!

 

There’s no place like home.

Happy Holidays to you dear readers! Welcome to the new home of Bone of Contention. Despite things not being totally finished, I felt that enough was in place to invite you to my new easy-to-remember website/blog – nickrenfroe.com. The “work” area is still under construction, I intend to add a section on Community Service, and I want to have a section dedicated just to dogs – mostly pictures of dogs I know and love. More posts to follow soon…

M&M
M&M

Be safe during your travels whether brief or extended. My wish for us all is to find some peace and focus on the many positives in our lives during this season.

Good Guys
Good Guys

 

That long one about alcoholism

Hi, my name is Nick and I’m an alcoholic. I had my last drink on October 14, 2013.

I have so many opening paragraphs started, a few different one page story bits drafted, and some very loosely related ideas written down. I don’t have a plan or an agenda, and just for today, i can be ok with that. I am going to keep writing for a while, then stop and put all of this out there at once. It isn’t great writing. It isn’t great storytelling. It is true. It is important. And maybe it will help someone else. Maybe it will help me. Thanks folks.

I have often referred to myself as an addict rather than using the term alcoholic. I have used and abused almost every fairly common drug out there aside from heroin, crack, and ecstasy. I have never tried any of those three. I am sure i missed a few other as well, but not from lack of trying. I intentionally avoided those three even in my darkest times. There is a difference between abuse and addiction and I have never been confused about the fact that alcohol was, is, and shall remain my true addiction. Part of the reason i ever even started referring to myself as an addict has to do with the culture of the 12 step programs in Richmond, VA (RVA) in the early-mid 1990s. The people i met in Alcoholics Anonymous were contentious, angry, and bitter people who argued about everything, and god forbid you mention a drug aside from alcohol in their rooms. The people who went to Narcotics Anonymous didn’t have time for all that crap. The people in NA were far to busy trying to figure out how to stay clean and stay alive. I went there to be with and learn from those people. They were very accepting and no one cared if you said “alcoholic” or “drug addict”. The few who stopped to even consider the issue had the sense to recognize that alcohol is a drug and these labels are really not the point.

I hated the language of recovery, from the first moment i learned anything about it and i still do. I remain unsure if that has more to do with the cosmic proportions of arrogance with which i am “blessed” or my passion for words. Either way, that language was a barrier for me, but i wanted to change so badly that i was able to shut up and listen long enough to hear the good stuff. There are so many clichés used in recovery that it can drive word-people crazy. One of the many things that makes it even harder to accept is how appropriate, true, and useful they are. “90 in 90” is one that most newcomers (term for people new to 12 step programs) hear often. It means that if you are brand new to recovery and just getting clean (or back from your latest relapse) you should attend 90 meetings in 90 days. The point of that is not mathematical, but to make it a priority to go to at least one meeting every single day for 90 days. We found plenty of time to do our preferred drugs for longer than 1.5 hours every single day. There is no reasonable excuse not to have the time to attend one meeting a day for 90 days.

90 in 90 is great for new people and i was no exception. I needed to break existing habits. Obviously what i was doing was not working out or i would not have been attending NA/AA meetings. I needed to build new habits. I needed to meet people who were actually making a point to try not to use drugs. I got to know almost every meeting offered in the city. I found two that i liked above all others, and made one of these my “home group”. (RVA peeps – every NA meeting at St James on Franklin was great. I preferred Thursday evenings. My home group was at St Andrews in Oregon Hill between Laurel and Cherry. Sunday night was the jam!) Your home group is the meeting that you are dedicated to attending at all costs, the one where you feel the most comfortable, and when you are really ready to start helping yourself by helping others, your home group is the place where that work can begin in earnest.

I shared more at my home group than at the other meetings. I got involved with set-up, tear down, and then running the meetings. I got involved in the larger NA community as a regional representative. My first exposure to working in a true parliamentary system was through NA.

I decided to let myself get sidetracked and then just stop this line of thought because i don’t remember a whole lot more about being a rep, and i don’t have much more to say about the program other than it really helped me out. I quit going eventually, not because i wanted to drink again, but because of my issues with the language. I am not going to explain that here. I never talk about that in public because i don’t want my reactions to end up turning someone else away from using these programs as the fantastic tools that they are. If you really want to know, tell me that in person or on the phone sometime. If you are not a person who has, does, or might suffer from addiction, then i will probably tell you all about it.

If you need or would like more information about NA or AA, for yourself or for someone you know and for whatever reason can’t or won’t do it, find it, and/or go to it, on your own, reach out anytime. I take this shit seriously. 202-297-1163. nick.renfroe@gmail.com

A whole lot of drunks and addicts have let me down. A whole lot of drunks and addicts have done nothing but support me. I have spent my time both supporting other drunks and being the drunk letting people down. I know the drill.

________

I have quit drinking several times in my life. I started very young, recognized i had a problem, voluntarily sought treatment, and was just about two years clean and sober before i turned 21. If you read the opening line and know that i was born in 1974, you can probably piece it together that my first stab at sobriety did not really work out. This last time, October 14, 2013, is the first and only time i truly said to myself – “this is it. I am done for good and can never ever drink alcohol again.” I had never said that or made that commitment to myself before. Even when I quit drinking on January 27, 2013 – not long after my friend, fellow alcoholic, former boss, and sometimes mentor Steve H. committed suicide by hanging – even then, i didn’t say “forever”. Not making that firm commitment to myself is one part of what led to my two weeks of staggering drunkenness that October. I hated every drink during that relapse. I would be weeping, telling myself how terrible it was to be drinking and how much i hated everything about it and about myself as a drinker, while taking huge pulls straight from the bottle. I am not even going to try to express the sadness and guilt and self-loathing that goes along with having admitted that you are a drunk and continuing to drink. It is the hardest easy-to-solve problem i have ever faced or even heard about.

Without the magic love of a few magnificent dogs i would not be here writing this right now. I have a great family. We not only love, but actually like each other. I did not have a shocking childhood trauma. I wasn’t abused or neglected. I have, what seems rare in this day and age, an awesome and supportive family. Hell, my dad and i have even been business partners since 1996. There is just something about the particular kind of hard ass that i am, the love and support or the lack of same from other humans just doesn’t factor in to my alcoholism much. To the extent that it did have an effect, the more i felt and saw that love and support, the further away i would go.

One of the many, and frequently first, unbearably difficult things about getting sober, certainly for me, and this is common, is coming to terms with the fact that our experiences, our feelings, and even the concept we carry inside our heads of our own identity – none of that is even close to unique or individual. The closing sentence of the previous paragraph, that is absolutely textbook behavior. It can be crushing to have to recognize that in addition to everything else you have destroyed in your life by the time you seek help, that in very important ways, you are not even special. “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” – (Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club)

When i was really low, maybe especially when i was really low, i didn’t want to hear about how much someone loved me or supported me. I did not want someone to just quietly be there and sit there. It could just be in my head, but i could feel the pressure of their desire to help, their desire for me to “get better” and it drove me crazier. Drinking made me hate myself more. Hating myself made me drink more. Drinking more made me…you see the wheel??

The first dog in my life that i got all on my own, Guthrey, also loved me unconditionally. His level of unconditional love just always hit me on a whole other level. He knew i was hurting and while he did try to be supportive, he had his own doggy agenda. His biggest intrusion into my psyche was stuff like, “i don’t care how sad you are there drunk man, and i do like you, but if you keep me in this house and do not feed me, i will eat you.” Not every one of my magic dogs had exactly that same style, but they all had one or two very simple bottom lines. They loved me so much and so simply, i could only let them down so far. Of course i let them down. Of course i failed them. But there were lines i would not cross with my dogs. When there was no food in the house because i spent all the “extra” money on booze, i gave Guthrey oatmeal. He did not like oatmeal. But once he figured out that i was offering him food instead of eating anything myself, he ate it. I lived on bread and beer – sometimes for months. Most of the time, i still bought Guthrey his really expensive fancy dog food.

With very few exceptions, i still walked my dogs every day. Sometimes that meant that “crazy dog man” was just weeping uncontrollably, hating being outside, hating being seen weak and broken, hating being seen at all, hating being outside, walking down the street with his dogs. Luckily, for most of those times, i lived in a socio-economically mixed ghetto with working people and crackheads alike. I was not the only one who had to struggle to get it together long enough to run into the store to buy booze and then run back to my hole. When i lived in other places, i would just wait until dark and then walk. If i did not have dogs in my life throughout all of the hardest times, y’all would probably not be reading this, and most of you would never have met me. Maybe one of you would keep my Facebook page going in memoriam like someone does for Steve. But more likely, i would have been dead long before cell phones fit into jeans’ pockets.

It wasn’t all terrible. I wasn’t in the darkest pits constantly for the past three decades. In the hood, i had a great friend live with me for a while. We would throw down together. He could probably out drink me even then. One of my neighbors became a very welcome regular at my house and he would match me beer for beer. I don’t know for sure, but i don’t think that either of these guys started drinking again right away the next morning. Not that any “binge” level drinking is healthy, but i started to see that even in a crowd of pretty serious drinkers most of whom definitely abused alcohol, i still stood out. I needed it, and i didn’t even wait until noon. Most of the time i was the first to pass out at the end of the day. Most of the time that was because i had at least a 12 pack head start. Drinking in the morning, drinking before work, drinking at work, and a truly key factor – hiding that i was drinking this often, hiding how much i drank, and lying about drinking.

Folks whatever you are doing in life, if you are hiding and/or lying about it, you have a problem.

________________

I do not have the best or most reliable memory. I am often incorrect in recalling timelines – by as much as a full year or two. There are some things even i do not forget.

I started drinking alcohol, with the clear purpose of getting drunk by myself, when i was in sixth grade, in something like 1985 or 86. I don’t want to mislead anyone or create some kind of false myth of my legendary drunkenness. I did not begin drinking more than 10 or 15 times a month until i was a high school sophomore. I did not start trying very hard to get drunk every day until the summer between 11th and 12th grade when i was 16 years old. This is when i started drinking and driving. (That is just information. It is not “the gun” revealed in Act I. I never got in a wreck, hit anyone’s car, property, pet, family member or anything like that – as far as i know anyway. I did eventually get a DUI, but that didn’t happen until 2003, and there was no collision of any kind involved.) I did not start drinking in the morning, pretty much every day, until i got to college. Luckily, i crashed and burned (metaphorically) pretty quickly. I admitted that I had a real problem and started going to 12 step meetings a few weeks before I turned 19.

Between June of 1992 and November of 1993 I consumed an ever increasing amount of mind altering substances. For a few months, i would stay up for two or three days at time tripping on acid as well, just continuing to take hits every 6-8 hours to keep things going. In the last two to three months of that time period, my abuse was staggering. It was an odd and sad time in Richmond, VA. Heroin was really popular and one of my roommates was way deep into that culture. There started to be some heroin parties at our house. I actually had to say to several of my friends – “If you guys are gonna do this shit here and you OD, i am not calling an ambulance. We are throwing your ass out in the alley.” My other roommate sold a pretty hefty amount of grass. A few of my other close friends also sold grass and other things. I knew everybody I needed to know to get whatever I wanted and got most of it for free or at deep discounts.

On an average day, i drank at least a half a pint of liquor, at least two beers, took 4 or 5 bong hits (for the uninitiated, that’s one way of smoking marijuana), and snorted a few lines of some low grade speed before leaving the house at 8 am to go to class.

This may shock or surprise some of you who knew me during high school or the first two years of college. When i got clean and started telling people i was an addict, most people did not understand what i was taking about. I have always been a very high functioning alcoholic, and to a point, adding in any form of speed can really assist certain kinds of high functioning alcoholics. If you saw the Denzel movie Flight, while dramatized, that is one of the many things the movie got right. I went to class, did my homework, read an average of 600 pages a day, wrote my papers, made the dean’s list, and was a pretty good employee at my job – as a pizza delivery driver.

My girlfriend finally had enough, broke up with me and kicked me out. I did have my own place – the Heroin house – but pretty much lived with her when i could. She saw more of my Jekyll and Hyde than most. She did not see much of the drinking. Like most true alcoholics, i was a frackin’ ninja at hiding my drinking. But she could not help but notice when i broke her lockbox to get to the weed inside. I did buy it. But i also did give it to her, steal it back, and break her stuff doing that. That breakup made me take a hard look at things. The breakup was not the only reason, but I got clean and joined NA inside two weeks.

I thought about those days, my first time getting sober, quite a bit during the downfall of my last two relationships, but mostly during the last one in 2010. That one failed for a lot of reasons, but my drinking, and lying about it, certainly did not help. It had to be absolutely maddening for her. Not only would she wake up and realize i had either left bed or never come to bed and then find me passed out outside. Not only would she then yell or fuss or whatever. But the next morning, she would slowly come to realize that the tongue lashing from the night before had no impact on me at all because i did not even remember that it happened.

_________

There is more. There is always more. This is not too bad at giving some broad general strokes at what my life drinking was like. I know i did not hit the darkness and pain section very hard. But guess what – it really hurts to even remember that stuff. I don’t hide from it anymore and i am not trying to hide it from y’all either. There is just only so much of it i can take at any one time. This is enough for now.

I won’t ignore anyones’ comments and i appreciate that you folks even read anything here at all, much less something real like this. I don’t need much in the way of support these days. The best thing that you could do for me is maybe try and think differently about drunks and addicts. The next time you see dirty street folks begging – i am not saying you buy them a bottle – but maybe recognize that the distance between someone like that and someone you know is a really really short line.

Thanks.

n

PS – for anyone freaking out about my contact info right there online in the post!! I have had at least one of my cell numbers and one email address published online right underneath my name on a company site which also bears my name, from 2004 – the present. I don’t foresee a time when that won’t be true. I have got to be one of the easiest folks to find contact info for out there. Given that, i would not want to make anyone who needs help have to goolge and then lose courage and not call or text or email.

Ramble Bits ©

Fair Warning for new readers – this is only PCT adjacent. If you just came for hikin’ talk, this probably isn’t for you. Feel free to hit the categories or the search options to find some hikey goodness! – Disclaimer Ends.

After about a month of staying up until 3 ish working on plans and general preparations and getting up between 5 and 9, I am almost back onto a hiker’s sleep cycle. In bed between 8 and 10. Up about 5. The next two nights, who knows. My brain is in a bit of a revolt the past week and i have not been able to muster the fortitude to keep it on track. I am even having trouble listening to my audiobook because there are too many thoughts in there and i don’t stay settled. I know this is temporary, and it has been nice for me listening to more music! Though it may be freaking the other folks at my gym out a little bit. When i am in the moment with the tunes, it is all i can do not to sing – but the dancing, air guitar, and head banging cannot be stopped m/. I actually have Rock Neck today from yesterday’s workout.

Casa de Luna (Joe's House) July 2012
Casa de Luna (Joe’s House) July 2012

I expect that my time in LA at Joe’s house will be a further aid to getting back onto a hiker’s schedule as well as finally giving me more hands-on time with my gear. I have only pitched my new tent twice and have never slept in it.  I know this is less than ideal, and it was definitely not the plan. But it is a good reminder that our plans seldom stand up to actual life for very long. I can’t wait to see Joe and Terrie and be in Green Valley again sleeping in the Magical Manzanita Forest! I plan to do a little hiking and might check out the path up to the aqueduct. I will probably hike out to the oasis as well. I expect that there could be some disc golf in my near future!!

Terrie, slightly confused Korean Girl, Joe
Terrie, slightly confused Korean Girl, Joe

My head is so very full of stuff to write about that it is difficult to pick a starting place. I may need to resort to the old outline and bullet point system for a bit to track the very divergent tales. One recurring issue that i have never figured out how to address is dealing with stories that are an integral part of my life but that may not really be mine to tell – or at least not in sufficient detail. Aside from the ownership of events, an admittedly not insurmountable obstacle, there is the impact on others to consider as well. In that regard i am more concerned about the business implications of full disclosure – which is why you have heard very few stories about my time in Doha and Thiruvananthapuram.

Me and Emily - June 30, 1996
Me and Emily Campbell (oldest niece)

Business and matters of the heart – how do you write about stuff without really writing about it? I have no idea. Maybe i am no good at writing that way because i am also no good at all at living that way. With everyone in my life, i always want to get to the point past all the surface crap, where you can be the real you without your defenses up.* Where you don’t have to worry about being misunderstood or causing offense because you have and trust the good feeling you share and because you know that you can work through miscommunications. I am an “all-in” kind of guy and i prefer to spend my time with people who are also “all-in”.  If you are not already nodding your head and saying “yes brother man, i get you”, i offer these simple examples. For me, the best example is the behavior of dogs. Dogs and their bipeds, dogs and each other, dogs and other animals. You always know where you stand with a dog. You know if they want to do what you want to do or if they are just going along because they like to be with you. You know when they miss you. You know when they would rather just nap by the fire. You know when they don’t like you and to what degree. You know when they do like you and to what degree. The other example i offer for those of you who are not well versed in dog is children. I don’t know kids as well as dogs, but i have spent a goodly time with many a youngster and there are some similarities. In that magical time before the conscious brain takes over, maybe it is before self-consciousness (not self-awareness now, that is something else), they leave it all right out in front of you. I like this. I don’t like that. I like you. That guy is scary. Let’s cuddle up and take a nap. I need a hug. I wish she/he would play with me. All of it just right out there in the open. I think that is a great way to live and i deeply mourn that so many of us lose this ability as we age.

Emily and Rachel
Rachel and Emily

Is there a line between boldness and stupidity? Evidence indicates that there is. I am finally pretty clear that such a thing exists. I am even getting better at locating it and abiding by it in business. But for other aspects of life, i am still not very good at these distinctions. I wanna live bravely, boldly, and in the open. I do manage that most of the time, the rough spots generally occur with “new” folks. I don’t know how much of this is normal and how much may be related to having a natural bias towards addiction – If one is good, more must be better. If once was good, all the time has to be the best, right? I am getting pretty good about controlling my relationship to substances, but i can get hooked on people too. How do you know what is really your heart and what is just some crazy expletive that the really freaky diseased part of you is excited about? Stupid heart never checks in with brain anyway. I  don’t know what that guy is up to half the time. But i do recognize him as one of mine because of how he goes about loving what he loves and that he wants to do it all Super Size!

Now that this post is firmly lost in the tall grass, it is probably time to stop.

I should have a more PCT related post coming in the next day or so about physical preparation!

Rock On Peeps. Be Bold. Live fully. Try not to hide!

n

* I am not saying that i always get to this magical place with everyone, but it is my goal, and i tend to spend more time and have longer relationships with folks when we DO get to the point where we are free to be ourselves without any worries or psychic baggage.

Stuff and Things

G+N.pa 96-97
G+N.pa 96-97

Howdy folks. It is getting pretty exciting round these parts. I am leaving in a week. I am thrilled and anxious and a little nervous and really jazzed up and a little scared. One of my new hiking friends and i were talking a bit about fear/anxiety. I shared a thought with her. This is not my original concept, just something i have heard from many sources and that i draw strength from at times. Bravery and courage do not imply an absence of fear. To be brave, to act with courage, is to be afraid and to carry on despite your fear.

I am practicing with a few acts of bravery here in PA 🙂

G+L+N.1
G+L+N 2003

The previously endless task list is no longer endless and all the big chunks are done. There are still a few things to tend to. If you are as “particular” as i am, there are always more things to do. All the resupply boxes are packed, addressed, and ready to ship out. I have a stockpile of backup food prepared in case i need to have my mail drop angel Liz adjust my portion sizes. I have two boxes of backup gear packaged and labeled for easy identification in case stuff breaks, wears out, or i want something else once i am out there doin’ it.

I filed and paid my taxes. I enrolled in a health insurance program. I got my booster shots both for regular USA life and for almost definite international business travel that will commence as soon as i return to everyday life after the hike (Tetanus and a Typhoid booster). My car is at the doctor’s office getting a new lung so that it will be ready for my folks to use in my absence.

I got some great tent repair tools from the maker of my new tent and have patched the hole i inadvertently made in the rainfly the second time i ever set up the tent. This kit includes a very lightweight device that will preclude the same kind of incident occurring again.

My desktop since 2006
My desktop since 2006

All of that necessary surface stuff aside – there have been some interesting emotional shifts and other reflections during this time of preparation. I look back at the years of drinking and smoking and continue to wonder how and why i lived that way at all, and for so long. There are so many great benefits for me in being sober and an ex-smoker. (I can never be a non-smoker. Even if i thought that it was possible for that title to apply to a former smoker, which i do not, Bill Hicks would crawl out of his grave, join Facebook, and become my friend – just so that he could unfriend me for applying that label to myself. No one wants that.) I will be 5 months smoke free on Friday, but i don’t really feel any different. That does not make me want to smoke again. I love not smelling terrible (or at least not terrible in THAT way). Many people have commented that it should be much easier to hike now. I don’t feel that. I don’t know if not enough time has passed, or if it has more to with me just having a very large lung capacity and staying active even when i was about 40 pounds overweight. I like not smoking. I like not spending the money i used to spend on cigarettes!

The not drinking has many more tangible, immediate, and longer term effects. One of the biggest things for me is that i am not depressed anymore. After living in a constant state of at least mild depression with several rather severe swings into deeper dark places – i have not even really been sad since i quit drinking, and it feels great. Aside from an initial few weeks of changing body chemistry, i sleep so well now. I fall asleep easier and actually sleep all through the night. What a great change that is. Having good sleep alone has probably helped reshape my attitude into the happy sunny guy you all know and love those days 😉 (Yes, i used to be even grumpier. Don’t you wish you knew me then?) I am still me, still have my own ticks, and tendencies, but i let more stuff go now. I am hanging on to less. I do still bottle things inside and am far more likely to channel emotions inside to try to understand and control them rather than just letting them run free – but i am doing it less.

A final thought to keep this “brief” and not spiral into a super lengthy introspective ramble – an unexpected correlation between long distance hiking and sober time. Many guide books offer the advice that if your goal is to thru hike a long distance trail like the PCT, you have to expect some changes out there due to fires, floods, landslides, mudslides, endangered species, and other factors. However you do choose to surmount these difficulties, the key is to walk a continuous foot path from start to finish. You don’t want to have to say, “i hiked the whole PCT, except for that bit near Idyllwild because of the …”. I understood this immediately, both what they were trying to say and why it might be important, particularly in your own memory and in talking with other hikers.

My buddy
Me and Lucas at Mickey and Max’s House – 2011

I quit drinking (this time) in January of 2013, just a few days after finding out that one of my dear friends and mentors who also struggled with depression and addiction killed himself by hanging. But on April 14th, 2014, the day i will start my thru hike attempt, i will be 6 months sober. That is because i chose to drink last October. It was something of an experiment. I didn’t go crazy or shirk my duties or anything – but i did drink for several days. I am glad i did it. If only to know that i don’t need to ever run that test again. I hated it. I was so very disappointed in myself for doing it. I had to make sure that i made a few public statements about it so that i would not have a bunch of my supportive friends trying to wish me a “happy one year sober” in January of 2014 that i did not earn. I don’t declare that i have been sober for a little over a year except for that little incident in October. That would sound and feel false and wrong to me. I don’t want to have a similar thing with my thru hike. I am not a purist in the sense of “every possible mile of the PCT must be walked”. There are several alternate routes that are not mandatory, they just take you to different sites and i am really excited about hiking those paths. For me, those alternates do not break my chain of thru hiking the PCT. Skipping sections in a car or something like that – something that does break the concept of walking a path all the way from Mexico to Canada – that would violate my personal goal. So, i get what they are saying and i am on board!

I am not judging the choices others make. That is their decision and their lives. You go out have the hike that you want to have. This one is mine.

PS – i keep meaning to write about music and m/ METAL m/ but i just have not had the time. And yes, those issues are timely and hike related! My new buddy Minda and i have a lot of common musical tastes, though as of yet, she has not found any Metal that works for her and we have been talking about metal. I wanted to write a bit about it and explain what it is about Metal that appeals to me. It may not be what you think…

Anywho – be well folks.

Rock On!

PPS – i have written about my dogs throughout this blog and i am sure i will again. With the anniversary of both of them passing – Guthrey at the end of March in 2004 and Lucas 03/30/2012 – my company getting really active in the MidEast again (which happened right after Guthrey died), and me going to hike in California again (i hiked the JMT a few months after Lucas passed) it has been on my mind. I miss my buddies every single day. No day is really harder than any other. But i am feeling it quite a bit right now.

 

Family Hiking

My dad has been interested in my preparations for the PCT, and told me that he would like to go on some more hikes together. After we hiked Kelly’s Run to The Pinnacle (pics here) he was excited to do more trips. When i have time for overnight or gear shakedown hikes i head out to the AT and hike south. It is great to hike anywhere outside of rocky PA, and my last AT hike stopped just about ten miles outside of Shenandoah National Park. My family spent a lot of time in SNP when i was just a wee lad. I can remember park rangers teaching us how to walk like “indians” through Big Meadows, and many other trips. My dad told me that he wanted to do some overnight hiking with me and was very excited about the opportunity for us to return to SNP together, and to do it in the winter when the crowds would be quite thin and the views would be unlike anything you would see in the Park at any other time of year.

Kelly's Run
From “P” blue loop clockwise to orange to first camera to white to second black to orange to blue clockwise back to “P”. Gotta love PA!!

To facilitate that, we have to outfit him with some gear. That meant that he got his own section in my incredibly dorky but highly useful gear spreadsheet. We loaded a pack for him, using much of the actual gear he would need to carry on an overnight, and headed out to Holtwood Dam for a 12 mile shakedown hike. Including 3 liters of water, Vance was carrying 25.3 pounds when we left the car. I like the area near Holtwood, on the west side of the Susquehanna. There are lots of rhododendrons and streams and very very few other hikers – even during peak times. I have hiked around here many times, but there are three trips that stand out and i have made movies for you from the pics and video shot on those hikes.

Map of Holtwood Hikes
Hike 1 = Green to Green, Hike 2 = Red to Red, Hike 3 = Blue to Blue

Hike 1 = My first long hike here with Luacs in 2011 (7:50)
Hike 2 = Mother’s Day hike with Mom and Dad in 2013 (2:47)
Hike 3 = Shakedown hike with Vance in 2014 (7:55)

It was a cold day, but it is such a beautiful hike and we had fun. Vance handled the weight and the mileage very well. After that hike, he had a new appreciation for my anal approach to tracking weight and was eager to lose some pack pounds wherever possible. We have since changed things up, pulling or swapping out some gear and clothes. I also have a few more pieces of gear on order and a few yet to buy. We are looking at our first SNP hike to begin in late February and are both really excited about it!

Vance with full pack
Vance with full pack
Nick and Vance
Nick and Vance

Just a Quickie

Howdy Folks. It has been a while. I have some stuff lined up for you, but some of it still needs a little polish. I had some good momentum going on with the writing and then things got a little weird for me just before Christmas. I got overwhelmed by a wave of unspeakable sadness and was stuck weeping and thinking many a negative thought.

My little blond girls!
My little blond girls!

I did manage to pull things back together and proceed with my holiday travel plans and visited with family and friends. Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my three lovely nieces was splendid. We played some of our favorite games and a few new ones too. I also got to spread a little Christmas cheer with Mickey and Max and their bipeds!

Max and Mickey
Max and Mickey

New Years in Richmond was a blast as usual, though the sadness started trying to creep back in on January 1. I rode it out – not splendidly, but i did not get overwhelmed.

On a brief return to NoVA, i got to take the nieces out to visit an old friend’s farm to ride some horses as well as share some time with her family. This has been a wonderful reconnection largely facilitated by Facebook.

Girls and Horses!
Girls and Horses!

I felt a little rocky again once i got back to PA, but i have spent time focusing on what needs to be done and applied doses of “Fake it ’til you Make it” as needed and i think i have righted the ship again.

Vance and i have made some excellent progress on the business front, i have some consultations set up with another LYP member regarding RAI‘s technical evolution, and have a few social outings on the agenda as well. I am also nearing completion on the JMT movie project. I need to review it again, but i believe that all the visual content is set. Once i verify that, i will add in some voiceovers where appropriate and be ready to set up a mechanism for those interested to either download it or receive a DVD.

I used my Christmas present from my sister’s clan, an REI gift card, to replace my old backpacking pan with a new one that i like much better. It boils water faster, has a non-stick coating, and can actually nest a fuel canister.

Jake/Floyd and i got to talk on the phone several times over a couple of days as well as exchanging some emails and it was really great to get to spend some time with him again. We have not had much time to chat since we left CA in July.

Me and Jake on Forester Pass
Me and Jake on Forester Pass

The next few days should be pretty full with business research and presentation creation, but i expect to have some time to dedicate to personal projects (writing and the JMT video) in the second half of January. I had hoped to have the JMT video ready for Christmas, but hopefully it won’t drag on past the end of January.

I hope your holiday season was filled with at least as much cheer as mine and hopefully far less battling with demons.

Cheers!

Happy Tails

Max and Mickey 1
Max and Mickey 1

Since my last post I have been busy with various caregiving activities. I was in NoVa to help some friends with a sick pooch. Some of you may remember Mickey and Max. Max had to have oral surgery. I went down to support my furry friends and their bipeds. On the day of the surgery, Mickey and I guarded the castle together while the others went to the healer. Max is doing fine and that turned into a very nice trip to catch up with 4 of my buddies.

Max and Mickey 2
Max and Mickey 2

The day I returned to PA, my grandpa went to the emergency room. He fell down in the night and hit his head. My dad said that Pappy seemed OK, but they wanted to get him checked out to make sure. I drove straight to the hospital and stayed with Pappy allowing Vance to have a break, get some food, and prepare for a longer stay.

Pappy cracked his C2 vertebrae. He was admitted and fitted with a neck brace. We setup a rotation and had someone from the family there in the room with Pappy 24 hours a day. After four days and three nights in the hospital, with several physical therapy and training sessions, he is being released this evening. His doctor thinks that the crack was minor as these things go and does not see any complications to a “clean heal”. Pappy will need to wear the brace for 6-8 weeks, but he should be fine long term, and he is not dealing with much pain or discomfort.

I cared for one of my local dog buddies the past two days as well. It was nice to do doggie care in my neighborhood again. And it was nice to have some one-on-one time with my pal Bruzer. He was a little too rowdy for Lucas so we did not do many long walks together. Bruzer has been diagnosed with his own canine ailment after a scare at Thanksgiving. On his new drug and diet regiment he is back to his old self, and we had a good time trekking through the rolling hills and fields.

This morning I celebrated one year in Lancaster Young Professionals with a repeat of last year’s volunteer effort doing same day registration for runners in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run. That is a fun event. I like getting to see all the runners who come in costume!

As you can see, it has been a little busy for Renfroe. Despite the somewhat hectic times, I have the first two sections of the Romance/Heartbreak story edited and am about half way done writing the third section. I have revised my original plan for the piece to avoid interesting but unnecessary sprawl and make myself get to and stick to the analysis and reflection portions of the project. I can tell you now that this has been a healing experience for me and despite how difficult it has been at times, I am so glad I decided to do it.

Pre-JMT Aftermath Potluck

And you thought the JMT stories were finished just because we finished the JMT? Silly Rabbit. There will be a few tales from “Green Valley Days: three weeks at Casa de Luna” and a few brief tales about the epic-in-its-own-right cross-country adventure back to PA. For now, some odds and ends.

This post does contain homework for you all.

JMT Video: I have been working diligently on creating a movie about our JMT experience. All the pics are in it, all the video, and some other material as well. It is about 90% complete now. I am not sure how long it will take to polish the last 10%, but it will be before the winter holiday season. It *should* be available to download for the tech savvy, but I will also format it to play on DVDs in a regular old DVD player. So homework for you guys:

  1. Send me a message, leave a comment, dispatch a carrier pigeon – let me know if you want to possess a copy of this movie and if you prefer download or DVD. This is not a contest and you won’t be judged. I don’t care if you don’t want to see the thing, but many have expressed interest.
Maximus!
Maximus!

Blog Posting Schedule: For a few nerdy reasons, I watch the “site stats” for my blog with interest searching for patterns. I have not found any patterns, but it is fun to look. If I am in internet silence for a month or more, my first one-three posts generally get 45-75 views each day. If I post once a day for two weeks or so, I generally get 3-10 views each day – and at that level, I pretty much know who you are. I will be doing more writing, more regularly, for the foreseeable future. For me, the primary joy is in the writing itself. I like sharing and love feedback and discussion, but I do not write in search of praise. So, I figured that I should ask you guys what you prefer? I got good feedback from the group of regular readers on issues related to the length of individual posts and when to break longer tales into chapters, and in that same spirit I ask you:

  1. What would you like the “publication” schedule to be? Do you want one post a day? One post a week? Two or three times a week? Or, also important to learn, does your interest in reading here depend more on your schedule than on when new posts do or do not appear?
MickeyMick!
MickeyMick!

On the Horizon: We are about to delve into somewhat different topics here than have previously been explored. I have a few things cooking and am not sure which will be ready first, but there is going to be a series on politics in general, the efficacy or not of voting, a tiny bit about the recent elections and other related bits. It will be difficult to do that without touching on many issues, so a discussion of religion is coming to BOC. All of that material will have some philosophical elements, but there are a few other more technical bits of philosophy to be discussed as well with one of the primary aims being to un-technical-ize them.

Meeting of Minds...
Meeting of Minds…

For some lighter fare, I still owe a brief account of the Conversation Desk, pitons, and a close corollary, the “Real Quick”.

Consider completing your optional homework assignments and enjoy the day folks.

Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I have missed writing and am happy to get back to it. Aside from sloth, there are a few reasons for my e l o n g a t e d absence from cyber, and in some cases actual, space.

I ended this summer’s adventures and began the fall at my folks’ place in PA. They were in the process of buying a new house and needed help packing the old house, painting and repairing it, and clearing out all the clutter from our attic and TWO storage sheds. By the time I arrived, my mom and dad had cleared out lots of furniture. I continued packing for a week and had everything but the essentials for living bubble wrapped, boxed, labelled and arranged in the garage for loading.

Then, in the final hours, something went wonky with the underwriters and the whole deal fell through – no new house. “No big deal. Things happen for a reason. We’ll get ‘em next time.” And all that.

On the plus side, the house we live in still needs to be painted and it is about 80% empty. So, I began painting the house. There were several staged deadlines involved. My grandpa would be coming back to stay with us through the new year soon, so I had to finish the basement first. Mom starts teaching school again soon after, and has Fall break coming up, which is a good time for me to kick them out so I can get to the high traffic/dangerous areas in peace. And Mom wants to have a Halloween party for her students.

Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

I painted houses for a living off and on in the early aughts. Not my favorite thing, but before I got into laying tile and when the tile jobs were thin, I still had to feed my dogs…

2. Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
2. Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

Like with many other kinds of jobs, I am slower than many in the field. But I am slower because I am methodical and very thorough. We had the whole house painted just a few years ago, but the guy did such a lousy job that it looked almost worse than it did before he started. I pull down all the light fixtures, unmount all the mirrors, remove all the switch plate covers, remove all the doors, hinges, and associated hardware, pull all the HVAC grates, and tape and tarp everything else. There was quite a bit of drywall repair and what felt like miles of caulking to do as well as some exterior drywall ceiling work!

Scaffold 1
Scaffold 1

I like to be careful as a rule, but to add to the fun, all the carpet in the house had been replaced in past few months and anything that isn’t carpeted is either tile or hardwood that I installed. So I wanted to make sure that no drop of paint or other material went astray. And though this is not the largest town house in the world, it is three stories tall, and occupied with three other folks for most of the work time. When I finally finished for the day I did not have the gumption left in me to get clean enough to touch my computer, find a paint free zone to set up in, and type out some of the things in my head.

Scaffold 3
Scaffold 3

Now the house has a new face, much of the sorting in the TWO storage sheds has been completed, I have gone through half of the attic, and have finally carved out a nice clutter-free place to think, write, and work.

Where the magic happens!
Where the magic happens!

That is all I will hit you with for the moment. I have to wrap this up so I can write some other stuff. Thanks for hanging in there and prepare for another trickle of content here at Bone of Contention!

Where the sleep happens...
Where the sleep happens…
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