Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Having grown up in Kingsport, Tennessee, I was well aware of Knoxville from an early age, if not as a place to go to, then certainly as a place to go through. My grandparents were all in Atlanta, so more often than not we would travel through Knoxville and on through Chattanooga on our way to visit. I guess my earliest memories of Knoxville are of the Arby’s on Kingston Pike near Papermill and of the gas stations at Cedar Bluff. The first time I can remember Knoxville as a destination would be when my father took us to go see the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Civic Coliseum. In 1982 Knoxville became a destination for millions with the World’s Fair (I only visited once that summer, but I remember it well).
My college career began in 1983 at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville studying mechanical engineering, so Knoxville was again relegated to ‘place I pass through and stop for gas, maybe’. There were a few times that some of my friends and I would make a trip to Knoxville for an event, but more often our destination was Nashville.
After a few years at Tech, I decided that I’d change my major to Architecture, which was a program not offered there, so I transferred to the University of Tennessee. My stay in the Architecture program was brief (long story there) so I transferred into the civil engineering program at UT, and then determined I could finish my degree quicker if I returned to Tech. Thus my stay in Knoxville was only about 6 or 7 months at that point, but I was glad to at least leave my cockroach-infested apartment behind.
In 1988 my then girlfriend (and future wife) left Auburn University to attend the UT College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, so I suddenly found myself making the trip from Cookeville to Knoxville almost every weekend. My knowledge of all that Knoxville had to offer expanded greatly during the next two years until I graduated from Tech in 1989 with a degree in civil engineering.
Degree in hand, and knowing that my girlfriend/fiancée had to stay at UT to complete her degree until 1992, I decided to concentrate my job search in the Knoxville area and landed a job in Oak Ridge, only minutes away from west Knoxville. I moved into an apartment next door to a high school/college friend/fraternity brother and began my twenty-year stay in Knoxville. I married my wife (aka MG) one year later and we moved into a slightly larger apartment.
After she graduated, we decided that we might as well settle in to Knoxville as our home. I had my job, and she found work in west Knoxville, so we moved into our first house for the next four years or so.
I found myself on the road for most of 1995 through 2000, but always with Knoxville as my home base. Since her career was in Knoxville, MG stayed home while I was wandering about the wilds of northern New York, northern Maine, and northern Alabama (you know, all of those “northern” places). In 1996 MG sold our house and moved in to house sit for some friends on an assignment in Maine. That same year we bought some land (backing up to another fraternity brother’s property) and started building a new house. I was home for most of the winter that our house was being built, so MG and I were able to put in a bit of the work ourselves including tiling, painting, and installing the dining room hardwood floor. We moved in during the spring of 1997 just before I shipped out again.
I finally finished my stint on the road in late 2000 and got assigned to a project out in Oak Ridge again, so I was able to begin feeling like I actually lived in Knoxville again. This was about the same time that MG made a career change and started being a road warrior in her own right, though she spent more nights at home than I had ever been able to.
Most of the real connections that I have in Knoxville started after 2000. I got back into cycling through a friend at our church, and from there joined a cycling club sponsored by my favorite local bike shop. Many of the people that I feel closest to now have come from branches of one of those two trees; cycling or our church Sunday School class. There are exceptions, of course, including friends from MG’s veterinary career and from the car club we belonged to for many years.
So fast forward now to 2009. MG’s career has progressed as she has moved up through the ranks at her company. We originally thought that the next step for her would be a move to the home office near Philadelphia, PA, but instead she was offered a position that would better allow her to utilize her medical background as well as her other experience with the company. The catch? The position is to cover the Pacific Northwest region of the country. We looked at the region, studied our options, and decided that Seattle, a city we had already visited and liked, would be the location to host the next phase of our lives. We moved into a small rental house in Seattle with about half of our possessions in September.
We had put our house in Knoxville on the market in July. We knew it would be tough to sell a house in the existing market following the economic chaos of the previous two years, and indeed it was. Showings were sporadic, and though feedback from those showings was generally positive, we had no offers since the market was flooded with houses in the same price and size range. We realized that it would take someone coming in and falling in love with the house the same as we did. In December it finally happened.
We went under contract in mid-December and I returned from Seattle in January 2010 to get the remainder of our stuff moved from the house in Knoxville to a storage facility in the Seattle area. Due to a mix-up we were not aware that the closing date had been moved up until just a day or two before my trip, so it turned out that closing was scheduled only hours before my return flight to Seattle.
I spent my week in Knoxville dealing with details concerning the move during the days and trying to get together with friends in the evenings. That worked on Monday through Wednesday, but Thursday didn’t turn out so well. Snow started falling early that day and the movers were not able to finish up by 1:00pm as they had predicted, but rather at 5:00pm. I still had too much to do, what with hauling away excess cardboard boxes and recyclable paper and plastic, to meet with the friends I was scheduled to have dinner with. As it turned out, the chef at the restaurant even called me to say that he might have to close due to the snow. Snow was quickly making the roads very slick and icy.
I’d intended to spend the night at my friend JB’s house, but I found that I couldn’t get the rental car up his driveway. Other friends had previously offered a room for that night, but I quickly narrowed it down to only one place where the roads were flat enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting in and out, so I spent my last evening at K&K’s.
I got up the next morning and decided to head straight to the title company office rather than run any of the last-minute errands I had planned. I got there early for our closing, but they let me go ahead and start signing the paperwork I needed to sign. I left there hoping to have lunch with Wally before I had to be at the airport, but time had slipped too far away from me. Yet another casualty of the snow.
So now I no longer have any ties to Knoxville other than the emotional ones. I do not know that this is the way it will stay, though. For some reason I don’t think Knoxville has seen the last of MG and me. Maybe in 5 or 10 years our paths may turn that way again. Meanwhile we will still visit periodically (my next visit is scheduled for two weekends from now, in fact).
So farewell for now, Knoxville. Farewell, and good luck.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
The race started at 11 am on Saturday under cloudy skies. It wasn't raining then, but there had been some rain overnight which, combined with all of the rains over the last few weeks, meant that the trails were fairly saturated.
I was in the field where the race started, and just after that I headed out to walk the route backwards. I walked up Saddle trail to the top of the ridge. I noted that it wasn't muddy there, but that the leaf cover on the trail was still intact at that point. It wouldn't take too many tires going by to change that, and reportedly, it didn't.
I stood at the top of Saddle for a long time, waiting for everyone on their first lap to go by. There were a couple of guys out there who were riding one lap on a tandem, so I had to make sure I saw that. I'd planned on getting a lot of photos, but light scattered light rains came along, and MG called me and wanted to talk for about 10 minutes, so I didn't end up getting a whole lot of shots up there. I did see the guys on the tandem, though.
After that, I continued on walking the route in reverse, policing the trail a bit as I went along (straightening out some markings, picking up a front fender, finding someone's race number...). I stopped once in a while to try a shot or two, but it just wasn't working out with the occasional light rain and the poor lighting conditions in the woods (and I don't think it's a good idea to hit racers with a flash in their eyes - unlike at least one other guy I heard about).
I ended up following the course all the way to the top of the Hill of Truth, which was maybe about half of the way around, and then turned and headed back to the Start/Finish area to hang out with everybody instead of wandering around with a camera and not taking very many pictures.
I had originally planned to head back out into the woods to try taking some long-exposure shots to get some light trails from the racer's headlamps, but by the time it got dark enough the rains started up a little harder than before, so I just stayed put. I did end up giving Jay a couple of breaks by taking over the scoring briefly.
The race itself ended up looking a lot like a war of attrition. Several teams ended up dropping out early, even before dark. By the time it had been dark for an hour I would guess that only half of the racers were still going. It had to be miserable out there. It was wet, it was muddy, and it was getting colder. Sometime around 9:30 or 10 pm the clouds parted and the moon came out. The bad thing was that the clouds had helped keep the temperature from dropping very fast. So it got cold quickly then, though I was at least prepared for that.
I saw riders come in with so much mud you couldn't tell what color their clothes or bikes were supposed to be. One guy came in with mud, grass and leaves trailing from his rear derailleur almost touching the ground. As people started leaving across the evening the camp area around the Start/Finish began to resemble dark brown peanut butter. Several cars and trucks lost traction and had to be pushed out. I saw ruts about 8" deep out there. I was happy that I had parked over in a gravel lot further up the road.
The race ends at 11 pm, but that only means that racers aren't allowed to start a new lap after that time. The last rider out had left at about 10:50 pm, so we had to wait until she got back near midnight before giving out the prizes (since the team she was on did place in the top three in their division). I helped with that, then helped break down the PA system, and then left.
I had planned way back in September that I would camp out with everybody else that night, and had left enough gear in my truck in Knoxville to do it. If it hadn't rained so much, I would have. Instead, I headed back to my truck, got out with no problem (and no mud), and went back to the house to sleep in a warm, dry bed.
In 11 years of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth, they had never had rain fall during the race before last night. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Let's hope next year the race can be 'in the dry'.
Friday, October 30, 2009
I was going to help John with some course set-up today, but most of that was already done. Where he needed my help was in the splitting out of all the the prizes donated by local bike shops and other sponsors into classification awards. That can be a very tough job, but I won't go into detail. That took us about three hours to get squared-away, at which point we finished up the marking of the start/finish/scoring area and setting aside t-shirts and glasses for the volunteers and sponsors.
Now the question is about the weather. The forecast has been calling for a 50% chance of rain tomorrow. The trail conditions at Haw Ridge are OK right now according to some of the folks who talked to us after they did practise laps today, but any rain will likely turn the trail surfaces into a soupy mire of muddy muck. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Mrs. Guy and I loaded up most (but not all) of our household items onto a moving truck on September 17th and 18th. Well, to be honest, we stood back and watched as the professional movers came in and did it. We also loaded up a rented minivan with all of the myriad things that we wanted to have with us in our rental house until the movers made it to Seattle. What kind of things? Well, enough clothing to get us through a couple of weeks if needed. An air mattress to sleep on (along with sheets, blanket and pillows), all of our computer gear, other miscellaneous stuff we'd want, my Ritchey Breakaway, and the cat. What? Only one bike? And what about the dogs? Not to worry. I drove the Mini Cooper Clubman with the dogs in the back and a bike and a cargo carrier on the roof. MG drove the van.
Ever since I told people we'd be moving to Seattle they've been going on about all the rain I would have to put up with. Well, that hasn't exactly borne out. It has been really rainy in Knoxville this summer and on up into the fall. It rained on us almost all of the first day of our drive from Knoxville to Kansas City, where we spent the first night. It rained for the first half of our drive from KC to Cheyenne on the second day. It was mostly sunny on the third day from Cheyenne to Boise, and sunny on the fourth (and last) day from Boise to Seattle. Then it stayed mostly sunny for our first three weeks in Seattle, with only a little rain during the fourth week, at which point we flew back to Knoxville for a couple of weeks so MG can have her second round of surgery. Yeah, it's still a little wet here. Go figure, right? Actually, Seattle averages less rain per year than Knoxville. It's just that during most years Knoxville gets the occasional downpour, whereas it rains more often in Seattle, but generally lightly.
So, you're still thinking I only have two bikes in Seattle, right? Wrong. Two of the bikes were boxed for me at the Bike Zoo (my Knoxville LBS) and loaded onto the moving truck. I left the tandem and my SS mountain beast - I mean bike - in Knoxville for now. They'll come in the final move when the house sells and we have a bigger place in Seattle. So I have the Ritchey, the Seven, the road SS, and my geared mountain bike in Seattle, and the other two in Knoxville.
Now then, those of you keeping score at home will remember that I had seven bikes. Well, the key word there is 'had'. I decided it was time for me to part company with the Kestrel. I hadn't been riding it much since I got the Seven, and space was at a premium, so I found it a new home with a friend of a friend. Besides, I could use the money.
Did I mention that I quit my job and don't have one out in Seattle yet? Don't worry, the hiatus was planned. I'll start my job search once MG is recovered from her surgery. Meanwhile I've been working on getting the house in order, getting essential services lined up, and acting as tour guide for MG's little sister when she showed up for a long weekend (she wanted to be our first visitor - I think she'll be first by a large margin).
So that's more or less a synopsis of our last couple of months. Maybe next time I'll actually discuss cycling in Seattle, the Emerald City.