Sunday, October 30, 2016

Camper Van Conversion And Sunrise At Big Ridge Overlook

By Bart

I've had the idea for at least a couple of years to convert our Dodge Caravan into a camper van. We always keep the middle and back seats stowed so we have lots of room for shadow, our outdoor gear, and for stretching out or sleeping after a race. But inevitably we would end up having everything sprawled out all over the back of the van. I really wanted to construct something where we could have unobstructed sleeping space and have plenty of storage underneath to keep our belongings secured in place. 

I struggled with what materials to use, how would I construct it so it wouldn't be sliding around. The biggest struggle I had was figuring out how much head room I would need, and how I would get stuff out of the deep storage space underneath the bed. 

One morning while laying in bed, I took a look to see how much room I really needed to sleep.  I saw that 5 ft was long enough to curl up. This might not work for everyone, but it works for both Eve and myself as we're not stretcher-outers, we're curler-upers when we sleep.  

I decided the perfect model for my idea would be the same dimensions as a standard mountain tent for two. This size would give us plenty of head room, storage space and room for Shadow. 

Once I got everything calculated out and built, we took the van out for an early morning test run to watch the sunrise and have breakfast.  

We woke up around 4 am, packed our breakfast and headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Big Ridge Overlook.  We knew we were there extremely early for sunrise, so we climbed in the back of the van onto the newly built platform bed topped with REI camper mattresses, comfy pillows and sleeping bags and quickly fell right back to sleep. 

The cool chill in the air made for prefect sleeping weather and waking up to the warm red glow of the sun just peaking over the horizon was magical.

The sun's light on the fall colored leaves were more vibrant than we expected they would be. It was simply a beautiful morning. One which memories are made of.

After enjoying the sunrise, we had our breakfast and fresh brewed pressed coffee then went for a run on the Mountains to Sea Trail.

Here's an inside view of our cozy warm comfortable bed.

Plenty of room for Shadow and his bed. We could still have more room when we move the front seats all the way to the front

The entire platform bed is hooked into the stow away seat anchors. The platform can be easily removed when we want to use the stow away seats.

Under the mattress we have two storage areas that can be accessed from inside the van.

Space on the side for our water jug and cooler.

Our easy up canopy and two 4 ft storage bins fit nicely under the bed.

I fitted one storage bin with a removable work counter that we can cook on.

We were the envy of the people that were car camping next to us.

Had a short run on the Mountains To Sea Trail before heading home.

Shadow was loving the brisk morning temperature.

Heading back home.

Never a dull moment for this guy. There's always something to look at.

Our first trial in our van conversion was a success. I think on the next post I'll talk about our easy up canopy, portable gas grill and our secret to never standing in the porta potty line at races. 

Happy running!

The Bartman

Monday, October 17, 2016

Easy Huevos Rancheros

Easy Huevos Rancheros:

Makes two Servings


1 can Seasoned Black Beans, drained but not rinsed
1 can Pinto Beans undrained
4 Tostadas
8 oz of your favorite Salsa
4 Eggs


1) Combine Seasoned Black Beans, Pinto Beans and Salsa in a sauce pan. Cook on medium until warmed.

2) Place 4 Tostadas on plate and warm in microwave for 45 seconds. This makes them crispy.

3) Cook two eggs which ever way you like them best. Bart likes his cooked "over easy". I like mine with the "yolks broke".

4) Place Tostadas on plate, add bean, salsa mixture, top with eggs.



Add Seasoned Black Beans, Pinto Beans, and your favorite Salsa.

Warm Tostadas in the microwave for 45 seconds to make crispy.

Cook two eggs per person the way you like them.

Bart likes them over easy.

Plate up and enjoy. We added avocado on the side today.


Crazy man loves Huevos Rancheros

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How To Get A Hummingbird Out Of A Garage

For the first time ever, and within the same day, we had two hummingbirds in our garage. When we saw the first one, we weren’t overly concerned. We figured if we left the door open, it would find its way out. We went inside and gave the little bird some time on its own to get out, but when we checked on it about 20 minutes later, it was still flying frantically back and forth close toward the ceiling of the garage. That was when we thought we better do a Google search to find out what to do.
Our Google search told us that this situation usually ends badly. “The confused hummingbird will hover near the ceiling, searching every high corner of the room, until it has to rest, usually on the garage door track or a light fixture (once it gets it in its mind that “up” is the only way out, it will refuse to fly through an open door). It will repeat this cycle until it is completely exhausted and dies, which can only take a few hours”.

Several sites recommended holding up a colorful rake and the hummingbird will think it's a flower and step right up on it.  Well, our bird was interested in the rake but wouldn’t stay on it. As soon as we moved, the bird flew off. So Bart and I thought, what if we hung our hummingbird feeder on the end of the rake and held that up… Voila! In less than two minutes, we had the hummingbird out of the garage. Happy ending! 

We went on doing our outdoor chores and about an hour later, I saw another hummingbird buzzing around the garage. We grabbed the rake and hummingbird feeder and in less than a minute had that one out too.

We finished up our yard work but this time with the garage door closed.

See the hummingbird? (Top left)

Now he's on the feeder and on his way to freedom again.

Hope you find this information useful. One day it might come in handy.

Eve & Bart

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Table Rock Ultra 50k

September 24, 2016

Mom used to say, “Life is like an ultra. You never know what you’re going to get.”  Well, I guess she didn’t actually say that.  Will Rogers once said, “I never heard a name I couldn’t forget.”    Ok, Will didn’t say that either, but they are both true and both apply to the 2016 TRU 50K.

The 2016 Table Rock Ultra 50K was a far different event than it was last year.  Last year we had monsoon like rain all day long and cloud cover that completely shrouded the mountain.  Views were limited and in many places completely nonexistent, which was disappointing because this is truly a beautiful course to behold.

This year we had clear weather and heat!  During the early morning pre-start orientation, the runners were warned that during the day temperatures would probably exceed 90 degrees in places …and it did.

Line up at the start and pre-race briefing.

The field got off and moving right on time at 0700. I took up the “lanterne rouge” or tail end spot of the field of 200 or so runners during the first mile.  I did this on purpose for a few reasons, 1) the anticipated heat we would be experiencing later in the day and, 2) I knew what the course had in store for us after the first aid station, and 3) I'm older than dirt.

Nothing much eventful happened early on other than really enjoying the wild beauty of the unique area east of Linville Gorge.  I was a bit surprised I was passing a few runners this early in the day, but it was more a product of an over exuberant start rather than a faster running Bart. 

Shadow chilling after a nice breakfast, a nice poop and now a nap.

After the first aid station, the runners enter Steele Creek Gorge.  The first mile or so is forest service road that rolls its way down to the crossing of Steele Creek which was almost laughable compared to the year prior when water was knee deep.  This year it was actually possible to rock hop across, but the cool water was too tempting, so I waded.  It was wonderful!

Steele Creek above one of the more dramatic waterfalls.

 After the stream crossing, the alleged trail becomes interesting.  The west side of the creek is all Mountain to Seas Trail (MST) and surely someone must have implied the term trail in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion. 

We had blazes marking a course through some very beautiful wild terrain.  Steele Creek with its water falls and rock formation were fascinating.  I could easily spend a couple of days going through  this roughly 3 mile section with rope, carabiner and ascenders to explore the beauty of this water way.  

Several runners (well, hikers/ climbers/scramblers) were struggling with the terrain, I gave them words of encouragement to take their time and enjoy the gorge.  I got “thanks” or a blank stare that seemed to convey “are you nuts or what?” 

We all soldered on at our own pace, and I was particularly thankful for my Z-poles to assist up (and down at times) the steep rugged path.   It took me 1 hour 38 minutes to cover the 5.4 miles between Aid Stations (AS) #1 and #2 with approximately half of that on relatively easy forest service roads, the remainder of which being a very strenuous section of MST.

A side creek feeding Steele Creek gorge.

The run/jog/hike to AS #3 was uneventful, but it was growing warmer by the minute as the sun rose higher in the sky.  The weather forecast was unfortunately proving to be true.  I passed a few more runners along this section as I was mentally preparing myself for the climb up to the Table Rock summit.  

At AS #3 I saw the familiar face of Doug Blackford (head went blank, name recall alert! “Hey you!”) assisting the runners and offering a sponge bucket filled with ice cold water, the only aid station I am aware of to do so.  I took full advantage of it, and I cannot describe how good it felt!   

Another Asheville runner, Mandy Higdon, was in the aid station at the same time only she was on her way down from the summit.  She was clearly feeling the effects of the heat while setting a pace that had her well over an hour ahead of me at this point.  I gave her a cheerful “Hi Mandy”, and I was rewarded with a comrade like butt slap.  I think that’s the first aid station butt slap I’ve ever experienced.  I will take TRU co-race director Brandon Thrower under advisement and ask that he consider certain strategic aid stations to include butt slaps along with water, pretzels, cookies……and the ice cold sponge bath.

Table Rock Mountain

View during the approach to the summit.

Other than being steep, hot, tough, rocky, brutal, hot, rooty and difficult (did I mention hot?), the climb to the summit of Table Rock Mountain was uneventful.  You just find your gear and grind.

At the summit of Table Rock Mtn.  Hey dude, don't cut off my foot!

There, that's better!
 At AS #4 located in the Table Rock summit park lot, I took on more water and popped a Vespa on the way out.  Going down the mountain took about half the time as going up.  Could have maybe gone faster, but I was feeling the heat and the strain of the climb. I noticed I was not negotiating the terrain very well as I tippy toed over the rocky mine field with all the grace of a drunk hitting the curb at 2 am.  One poor fellow just ahead of me got in over his head and took a nasty slammer.  Other than being covered head to toe with dirt and mountain litter, he seemed okay but very slow getting up.  It could have been far worse going down on steep rocky hill like that.  

View of Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock Mountain.

I buzzed through AS#5 (if you can imagine a garden snail buzzing through something) and headed for some of the nicest single track to be found anywhere.  Only problem was I tripping over everything.  I certainly hope that the 50 or so runners that followed me to the finish appreciated the painstaking effort my right foot went through to clear the trail for them.  I kicked every damn rock, branch, root and squirrel turd between AS#5 and the Steele Creek crossing.  At one point I finally did recognize the symptoms of dehydration and being low on electrolytes, so I took another Endurolyte, doubling my normal dose, and guzzled more water;  the tripping stop.

Rock out cropping on the forest service road between the Steele Creek crossing and AS #6.

Once I made the crossing of Steele Creek, I wadded into the pool below the falls and sat down.  I think I sat there 5 minutes soaking up the cold water and watching these little tiny fish swim around me and mouthing the water like they were enjoying the alkaline environment I was creating.  What a treat this was proving to be for man and fish alike.

After my refreshing soak I was feeling pretty darn good all things considered.  I could feel myself picking up the pace slightly when running the downhills while my hiking pace on the uphills remained steady.  

AS#6 and last aid station was kind of a blur.  With less than 5 miles to go, I mentioned to one fellow who was stretching his legs that “from here on it’s all guts and glory!”  His responding grunt indicated he did not share my enthusiasm.  

Nearing the finish!

I lost count on the number of runners (actually walkers by this time) I passed along this rolling stretch.  We all congratulated each other knowing we would finish.  It had been a tough day for all of us.  TRU 50K course is not one to be trifled with and the weather made it even that much more challenging.

I surrender!

The final 4.8 miles into the finish went by nicely and only a couple of minutes slower than the outward trek earlier that day.  I actually felt good and finished 128th out of the 177 finisher in a time of  8 hours 41 minutes. 

Eve snapped a couple of pictures of me coming into the finish.  On this 95 degree day the finishers reward was quite appropriate; a hooded sweatshirt!  But in all sincerity the best finisher reward for me was seeing Eve’s smile and hearing her voice, “You look great!  I’m so proud you!”

The Bartman