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lisa marie corley | greenville, sc

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zzz.neverdones

Hoping this isn’t a permanent state of affairs

Hi guys! Yep, it’s been a sparse 2009 in magicalmonkey land. I hope inspiration will kick in again, but for now I’ve needed to let some things go in my life to make room for other things.

Neverdones: retired
No more, y’all! It was a great series and really spurred me to tackle new things in my life, but eventually my neverdones — or, rather, writing about my neverdones — became just another pressure. And trust me, additional pressure is something I don’t need. :)

Another 5K
Yesterday I ran the GHS Swamp Rabbit 5K, my first race since November 2008 in which I busted the 30-minute barrier. An injury in January and flareups of a couple biomechanical issues have hampered my training this year…..which was reflected in this weekend’s disappointing 34:19 time. I had to walk three times! Auuuuugh!! I must get hardcore on my own ass again.

Immediate future
MUST get work under control. NEED to spend more time with family. WANT to hang with friends more often. WILL kick up my workouts a notch. Those are the goals that are at the top of the list now — yay, focus! :) I’ve finally signed up for and have learned to appreciate Facebook, so hop over there and look for me. The short-and-sweet blips are much more conducive to my schedule than blogging.

Later, ppl! Check back now and then in case I’ve had the time or inspiration to post.

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Neverdone #12 :: Asheville affluence

(Yeah, I know….those of you who hop over to mm regularly know that I’m posting this in the new year rather than the 31st. The OCD part of me just wouldn’t allow my 12th neverdone of 2008 to be filed, wrongly and in perpetuity, with 2009. Forgive me, please.)

As close as I live to the famous historical landmark, I’ve never visited Biltmore Estates in Asheville. I always wanted to go, not so much because I thought I’d have a blast, but just to be able to say I’d been there. I sort of viewed it as something that senior women’s church groups did to really blow out a load of fun. The most appealing thing to me was the wine tasting, and even that I viewed with a take-it-or-leave-it flavor.

Well, good buddy A recently said, “Let’s go!!” So, on a fine fall day right before Christmas, I took a day off work to hightail it up the mountain with her.

The curvy drive to the big house was beautiful, with a well-manicured woodsy wildness characteristic, I remembered from my college architectural history classes, of the picturesque movement in architecture and landscape design. I always liked the naturalness of that particular theory and practice as compared with other schools of thought, but there still seemed to be something “off” about it. Untouched but pruned. Genuine but contained. Pure but processed.

We parked and took the shuttle to the house. Rounding a curve and entering a small gate, I caught my first glimpse of the structure….and was surprised that it was so small.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Small?? It certainly is not small. My friend said, “Wow. You must have a BIG imagination.”

Jumping out of the warm, comfy van, I meandered my way along the facade, photographing the gargoyles and stone carvings. That sort of stuff just fascinates me. I found one little stone group of bad-attitude creatures just perfect for magicalmonkey — the head-honcho gremlin in the center is naked and looks like he has an erect little wallywanger. Ha!

I could’ve stayed out there for two or three hours, but the main attraction was supposed to be the interior part, so we sauntered on in. I can’t decide if the no-photography rule was frustrating or freeing. It certainly helped speed our visit along! Inside, most interesting to me were the architecture and architectural details. I enjoyed the period furniture, holiday decorations, and everyday-life items, but they didn’t hold my attention for long.

As usual when I visit very old buildings pregnant with history, I found myself imagining the people from long ago who walked the halls of the place when it was just a big ol’ summer party home. Did a young female servant ever squeeze in the little window cubbyhole across from her bedroom, wistfully watching wealthy guests arrive in carriages? What went through the Vanderbilts’ minds as they hung out beside the massive window in their bedroom-suite family room, surveying the miles-long rolling hills of their backyard? Down the hall, were eccentric guests playing naked, perverted games in their own private suites, tossing clothes, bedcovers, and linens willy-nilly about the room?

Moving out to the gardens and greenhouses, I wielded my camera once again and went to that happy-creative place in my head. Statues and trees and plants, oh my! My very patient bud A had an awesome amount of tolerance — anyone who indulges my Nikon and me for that long deserves a huge whompin’ “Fabulous Friend” award. I’ll post the better shots later, after I’ve had time to cull the 250 or so images.

Then on to the winery, where we greeted nightfall. During the free belly-standing-up-to-the-bar wine tasting, I discovered a couple yummy white wines. Now if I can just remember their names for future reference….

By the time we left, I’d scored a little holiday shopping as well as a brand spankin’ new awesome-deal season pass.

Yep, I’m sold and I’m going back! Who’s in?

Neverdone #11 :: Sharing my bodily fluids

For days and days afterward, I stayed all warm and fuzzy from this neverdone. Aglow with good tidings, I was! It also gave me an excuse — no, wait, a directive — to eat Twinkies and be lazy. How can you beat that?

Oh, and then there was that opportunity to be on TV. I turned it down for myself, but was thoroughly pleased to shove my neverdone-bud into the limelight instead. :)

I donated blood….yep, for the first time ever.

As I walked into Greenville’s Blood Connection, I wasn’t really nervous about the needles or the fact that someone was about to drain buckets of blood from my veins.

(Hey, before you complain about my choice of words, I didn’t mean *gallon* buckets, for heaven’s sake. I meant those tiny little decorative buckets you find at Michael’s or Garden Ridge. They’re small buckets, but they’re still buckets.)

I think my neverdone partner — let’s call her P — was a little nervous, though, because she hates, hates, hates needles. But she seemed calm as we completed the required paperwork, and pretty quickly I was called to begin my adventure.

A blonde, blue-eyed, cordial-but-quite-serious lab tech with a ponytail and perky gazoongas took me into a tiny little closet of a room with a desk and two chairs. It was one of four or five similar rooms all lined up in a row, I assume for the sake of privacy. But I could hear every word that was spoken in the room next to mine, so I think they should reassess the effectiveness of these little isolation areas.

She asked me question after question after question after question until she began to sound like a rapidfire auctioneer…..which made me laugh. And the questions got more and more ridiculous as she went on and on and on…..which also made me laugh. I wanted to explain to her why I was laughing, but she wouldn’t stop with the questions. Finally, she had to take a breath and I said, “Wow, some of these questions are giving me the giggles…do you think I could get a copy of them? Some of them are funny.”

She did smile at me briefly, but declined my request. “They won’t let us make copies,” she explained. “I’m not sure why.”

Well, darn. I was hoping to share them with you. The best I can do is recite — to the best of my recollection — the question that sent me over the edge: “Have you ever been to Africa and acquired the oogaboogadoodoo virus?”

(Yeah, yeah, I *know* that wasn’t its actual name. But it did have a singsongy sort of silly flavor to it, and she pronounced it soooo precisely.)

The nice little serious blonde chick guided me from the room to one of the dentist-chair blood-sucking stations and asked me to drink a carbonated beverage. I asked her if I had to, and she said yes. It was while I was sipping the diet cola — yuk! — that I started to pay attention to the young newscaster-dude and his video camera-toting buddy.

The behind-the-camera guy was filming the on-camera guy as he went through the donating process — he, too, was doing it for the first time. I think it was first-timer day at the place….Besides P, me, and the on-camera guy, I’d heard a couple other donors confess that they were virginous.

(Can you believe “virginous” is not a word? It should be. I like it much better than “virginal.”)

The behind-the-camera guy caught my eye, smiled a big I’m-about-to-ask-a-favor smile, and asked, “Would you mind if we interviewed you?”

I shook my head and smiled my bummer-but-there’s-not-a-chance-in-hell smile. “Nope, sorry,” I answered. “But I’ll bet my friend would love to!” I pointed toward P, who was just being escorted out of her little closet-room.

He wasn’t giving up. “Would you mind if I just got some footage of you?”

“Nahhh, I don’t think so. Thanks, anyway.”

I looked to my right, and the nice little serious blonde chick was poking me. “You’ve got great veins,” she said, smiling warmly. Not many things in this girl’s work world made her smile, but great veins was one of them.

So I sat there as my blood drained into a clear bag. I’d drank a ton of water that day because I’d been told I would bleed faster. Apparently it worked. After only about 5 minutes, the bag was engorged with my deep red life-fluid. I blew it a mental kiss goodbye, and hoped that it would help someone. The blonde chick told me to sit there a few minutes, finish my beverage, and move over to the snack table when I felt like it.

Looking around, P was in front of me talking to the camera. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, though. To her right was a straggly-looking, blankfaced fella who either was coming down off of some sort of unpleasant high or was dead-to-the-whole-world tired. I wondered if he was here to donate blood for a friend or family member….he looked as if he’d been to hell and back. Or perhaps to the ER and back.

I heard a round of chuckles, and noticed that the newscaster dude, in the station to my left, was sitting up, looking around at everyone’s faces. “What?” he asked. “Do I look really pale? I feel OK.”

Yep, he looked pale, poor guy. I felt nothing. Just normal. So I decided to sit up, too, and made my way to the highly anticipated snack table. Once there, I looked for something healthy…..to no avail. Why would they not provide apples? Geesh, all they had were Little Debbie sugary crap-things. I considered the Twinkies, but, not being a huge chocolate fan, I opted for a cakelike square covered in vanilla icing. Yuuuuuuum! Crap-things can be so good.

I continued to feel fine the rest of the day, except for once — I felt a nanosecond of dizziness after getting up too fast from my chair at work. I probably could’ve gone to the gym that evening, but I’d been told not to exert myself so soon after donating, so I had an excellent excuse to be lazy!

I loved this experience because it might have helped someone hang onto life a little better….. :) It makes my other neverdones seem trivial and self-absorbed. Egotistic.

Hmmmmm.

Neverdone #10 :: Going down

Hey, y’all….wanna hear about my latest butt-kickin’, life-affirming, invigorating geocaching adventure? Did the title of this post pique your interest? Maybe you’ve guessed it already.

My neverdone?

I rappelled! Wooooooo!

Backstory
I think I’ll start my tale waaaaaay back when I first heard about a cache called Bradley’s Bottom. It was a little over 2 years ago, I think, and some people in the upstate geo-club were discussing it in the forums. They got a wintertime group together, adventur-ized, and came back positively euphoric. I’d really wanted to go, too, but…..well, I was a different person then. Fear — a hundred different forms of it, it seems now — paralyzed me quite a bit back then.

What scared me? Welllllll….you had to hike a steep mountain, cross a river by navigating rocks and fallen trees, and jump off a freakin’ enormous rock with just a skinny li’l rope for support. I was doubtful that I’d be able to handle the physical challenges. Plus I’d have to talk to a stranger or two. Or eight or fifteen.

This year, I’m ready
Fast forward to late 2008, though, and I’m a different me. No fear! OK, maybe some slight trepidation. But no fear!!

Happily, an adventure-bud — for no reason in particular, let’s call her A — decided at the last minute to join me (“Screw it — I don’t care how much I have to get done at home today. I want to go, so I’m going!”). So we got out of bed early on a brisk Sunday to haul ourselves, Mini-style, up to the NC mountains.

Pre-jump
When we got to the agreed-upon meeting point, 8 or so geocachers — many of them familiar from neverdones #1 and #7 as well as other geo-fun-times — were out of their cars, chatting in the cold. By the time we were ready to set out on the hike, there were well over 20 of us.

Here’s a fun fact to set the stage for you — a notebook was passed around, and each person was asked to share the name and phone number of an emergency contact. A “next of kin.” Ha! I accused them of just trying to scare us, but apparently they were serious. “You never know,” we were told.

The hike in was easy, at first, and very pretty. We’d chosen the perfect day to come! Yeah, it was a little chilly, but soon I was grateful that the nip in the air helped keep me decidedly un-sweaty. And the fall colors were gorgeous! Of course I had my Nikon with me, as well as my GPS receiver and — tucked inside the generous pockets of my handy-dandy cargo pants — extra batteries, a Sharpie, a Power Bar, and a small stack of tissues just in case my bladder decided to go Benedict Arnold on me (it didn’t — yay!).

We crossed a small stream, some of us by skipping across ottoman-sized rocks, others by wading through a shallow area containing smaller foot-sized rocks. I’d actually been much more nervous about water crossings than the impending rappel — people had fallen in during previous trips, and, considering my phobia about deep water and my usually sucky balance, I figured my chances of joining the ranks of “the fallen” were higher than normal. But, taking a deep breath and just doing it before having a chance to think too much, I crossed MUCH more easily than I’d imagined. Whew!

(Much later in the day, as A and I made our way back to the car, we joked about our mild apprehension when first traversing this area. With REAL rock-hopping under our belts, these tiny little skips were now child’s play. Ha!)

Remember the people who made us record our emergency contacts… “just in case”? Well, as we trekked closer to the cache coordinates, we began to notice prominent signs supporting the organizers’ caution. Check out the photo! Yikes! (Click it if your eyeballs go all fuzzy when trying to read smallness….)

Next came the steep downhill leg of our journey. I loved it!! My legs and glutes felt alive, and the cool air in my lungs was the mutha-freakin’ best. Yeah, baby!!

Before we knew it, we’d arrived at the drop location.

Main event
I peered over the edge, and it didn’t seem that far down. Someone had said 30 feet, I think. The vertical rock was craggy and seemed like a good-grip place to “walk,” and surrounding foliage and trees looked like they might provide a sense of visual security. At the bottom, I saw dirt — soft dirt, I told myself. It’s not like I’d be dangling off an overhanging precipice with dangerous, pointy, stairsteppy boulders below, eagerly waiting to bludgeon and pierce my falling body if I slipped.

As the skilled rappellers worked to prep the gear, members of the group sat down along the steep mountainous trail. Two of the strong, experienced types did the drop first in order to position themselves vigilantly below. Soon we were ready to get rolling! Camera in hand, I settled in a spot near the friendly, credentialed, guru-rappel dude who stayed at the top to be teacher, cheerleader, and gear assistant to whomever needed it.

One by one, each person harnessed up, got hooked to a rope, received a mini-quick lesson, and walked backward over the edge as people all around them snapped photos. Some people went slow, some people went fast, some people were scared, some people were fearless. Everyone reveled in others’ excitement. It was cool!

About two thirds of the people had gone down when it was my turn. Even though I’d watched everyone else, I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to be able to apply the knowledge to my own downward trek. So Mr. Guru-Rappel showed me how to strap on the harness, and then took me to the drop point to rope me up.

“Do you want one rope or two?” he asked.

“What’s the difference?”

“Two ropes slow you down,” he said.

Since it was my first time, I decided that safer was the better option, so I asked for two ropes. He looped ’em through some sort of figure-eight-ish thing as I stood with my back to the drop, and said, “There you go! Now just trust the rope.”

I leaned back, it held and felt very secure. I walked back and down a step or two, and I was comfortable on the rock.

“Now, with your left hand, hold the part of the rope that’s supporting you,” he said, ” and with your right hand hold the part of the rope that drops beneath you. To slow down, move your right hand behind you….and to go faster, move your right hand out to the side. It’s all about creating tension on the rope.”

Cool, it seemed very simple and straightforward. With my right hand behind me, I stepped down a little further, then moved my right hand outward. Nothing. I moved it out a little farther. Still, I didn’t move. My hand all the way out to the side and slacking off on the tension significantly, I still didn’t move. I laughed.

“Why won’t I GO?” I implored.

I heard someone above me — I’m pretty sure it was a frequent mm reader — yell, “You don’t weigh enough!”

I jumped against the rock a little, and that seemed to help. I began to move backward again……slowwwwwlyyyy…. then it sped up little. Woooooooo-hoo! What a rush! As I neared the bottom, though, I found myself wishing I’d requested only one rope. AND I was ready to go do a longer, more adrenaline-boosting big-boy rappel!

Ahhhhhh, it was FABulous. See the bigfat grin on my face taken at the bottom? Ha!

Waterfall
Even though the drop was my neverdone of the day, it was only one of the highlights. After making the jump and continuing down steep terrain, we came to Big Bradley Falls.

While parts of the falls can be viewed from above, we now had access to the most beautiful vantage point. Wow! If only I’d strapped my tripod to my back! A timed exposure — along with a little more patience to find the perfect angle — would have given a photo an ethereal quality which I would’ve loved to capture. As it was, my drunken-pixie muse was AWOL, and I satisfied myself with a couple snapshots of the waterfall while continuing to amass people shots.

Continuing the journey
You’d think all that would be enough of a journey to find a cache, huh? Nope. The person who hid this particular ammo can has a bit of a sadistic streak, so from there we had to traverse the river by hopping, climbing, and crawling over fallen trees, rocks, and boulders the size of vehicles. Now, THAT, buddy, was a physical challenge. I loved, loved, loved it!

The only part that bothered me, really, was walking across a fallen tree. It had a large trunk — which helped — but there was nothing to hold onto, and nothing beneath you except the river…..and it looked deep. I purposefully did not look at the water closely, so it might not have been deep, but…..

Aaaugh! I just held my breath and moved over and beyond it, fast. It felt good to do it, though!

Just as when I tackled Athena’s Curse — I was struck by the “why” of all my sweat in the gym and on the running trails. Why do it? Why pursue the relentless cycle? Sometimes I get discouraged and bored by the repetitiveness of it all — not exactly enjoying the actual pursuit of sweat, only reveling in the brief after-euphoria. I know that it’s good for me, but it sure sucks a lot of time, discipline, and dedication. Occasionally I’m tempted to set it aside to devote more of me to other types of lifestuff.

But…..

Then I bag a challenging neverdone, and I remember. I work the fitness grind so I can get out in the world and engage. Fearlessly.

Anyway. Back to the story. Someone ahead of me found the cache, and the gang converged at the container. I signed the log, but this was one geocaching trip in which the cache was incidental. The journey was definitely the thing, man.

Do we have to go back?
Yep, when you hike, drop, and hop out to the middle of nowhere, eventually you have to turn around and go back to the car. The first thing that gave me a bit of a pause was going back up the rock. I don’t know why, but I’d spent so much time being excited about the rappel that it never occurred to me we’d have to follow the rope back up. See the black knotted rope in the going-down picture above? You simply grab that puppy and just walk back up to the top. Turned out to be way easier than I imagined.

It would’ve been great to hang for a long while and do a late lunch with the geo-gang, but A and I needed to get back home….we’d been in the mountainous woods for nearly 5 hours. So we headed back toward the parking area, the steep hike now traversing upward. Again, my body surprised me, and I handled it quite well. In fact, it wasn’t as strenuous as my spinning or super-circuit classes. At one point I did feel a familiar running-injury twinge in my hamstring, but with a quick rest and a stretch, I was fine.

An invigorating, deliciously good, deep-sleep-inducing day!

It’s been right there behind me for months now

Goodness, y’all. Where is my blogging muse? Is my writing inspired by an impish little fairy creature who’s decided to vacation in Florida for the winter? Or is it the same drunken pixie who sparks my creativity when my Nikon is at my side? Whatever the case, I seem to be totally tapped out when it comes to choosing words with which to form sentences. And making them entertaining on top of that?? Geesh, it just seems overwhelming and….well, hard. Too hard. I don’t wanna.

That’s quite unfortunate, because I REALLY want to tell you about a neverdone I scored last weekend. It was a blast of a geocaching adventure!! This time, the cache itself was pretty incidental. Yeah, I signed the log, but the journey was the thing, man. Yup. I am officially addicted to physical challenges. It’s probably a good thing that this mood hit me later in life rather than during a young-and-stupid phase. I’d probably be dead now.

I also have a neverdone scheduled for next Friday, so I hope, hope, hope my MIA blogging muse becomes un-MIA soon!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share something with you. I was unaware of it myself until a couple co-workers pointed it out a couple weeks ago. I’ve included a picture of it. Can you see it? Look closely. Right there in the center. Click on the image if you want to make it bigger. Do you see it now?

The backseat of my happy, sweet li’l Mini….has a, um….ahem. Vagina. People keep poking things in it.

Neverdone #9 :: Yeah, ahem….just call me "coach"

I’ve been holding back. Hiding information from you. Not talking about something big that’s been going on in my world for the last 9 weeks.

Remember the “couch-to-5K” running program I joined in the spring? Well, after it was done, the head coach approached me and asked if I’d like to be a volunteer coach for the next group that they were planning. This one would begin in August and culminate in the Spinx Runfest 5K on October 25th.

Good lord! I was quite flattered, but suspected that he’d been smoking some sort of hippie-grown, hallucinatory substance which made gasping, aching, out-of-shape old women appear athletic.

“Ummmmmm…..” I didn’t know what to say. Geesh, how do you tell someone you don’t know very well that he’s delusional?

“You remember me from the group, right?” I began tentatively. “I’m the one who sounds like she has emphysema when she runs. I missed a chunk of the training runs because my lower body tried to quit on me. I am just trying to figure this running thing out myself…I’m still learning. I’m not qualified to be a coach, for heaven’s sake.”

He was adamant that he was talking to the right person. “You stuck with it,” he said. “And your story will motivate others. You’ve come such a long way. Having gone through the program yourself, you can help others know what to expect. You’ll set a great example.”

I hesitated, hedged, questioned, and argued, but in the end I said yes. The biggest benefit I saw at the time was that it would keep me running….and accountable to my own workouts. I’d be one of three volunteers from the previous group to serve in a coaching role. (I’m gritting my teeth right now from the effort it’s taking to NOT put quotes around the word “coaching.”)

So — just like that, I was committed yet again to leave the house at the crack of freakin’ 7:30 every Saturday morning. I told myself I could be lazy on Sundays. There were also group runs Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and I was there for most of the Tuesday ones. I couldn’t bring myself to skip my core-strengthening Thursday evening pilates classes.

Running as a coach was different from running as a participant. I wanted each person in the group to feel special, so during the runs I’d go back and forth among the different participants to touch base and “whooo-hoo!” them. It was great! In the process, I built up my own endurance and speed since I would run back to check on the slower-paced members, then run forward to catch up with the others again. On those days that I didn’t feel like I got a good workout myself, I’d do an extra loop of intervals around the park after everyone else left.

As the weeks advanced, though, it became less about my own goals and more about the individuals in the group. It was SO cool to see their levels of fitness increase and the pride in themselves begin to soar. I remembered my own sense of empowerment when I first started to run and notice improvements, and it was heartening to see it happen in others — and to be a real part of their motivation.

This was an awesome group! About 50 people showed up for the very first run, and half of them were with us on this Thursday’s last training run (which is a great retention for this sort of thing, by the way). Their energy and enthusiasm has been contagious throughout the whole 9 weeks!

And how ELATED everyone was when they crossed the finish line this morning!!!! The fastest person in our group finished in just under 29 minutes, I think. She rocked! Most of us hung out at the finish line until everyone in our group completed the run…..and THEN we waited to cheer for our head coach as he finished the half-marathon. That’s over 13 miles! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to run that far. His race had started at 8am (our 5K started at 9am) and he finished sometime between 10:15 and 10:30, I think. Whew!

Me? The clock said 32 minutes and a few seconds or so when I crossed the finish line, which means my official chip time might be under 32. We’ll see when the results are posted online.

During the run, I kept it at a comfortable pace the entire time. I didn’t wear my iPod Shuffle — I’d heard that they would not be allowing music devices in this race. That bit of intel turned out to be false, but it was interesting to experiment with a no-music run. I got into a breathing/stride rhythm that propelled me quite nicely. I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery, but I have a vague impression that parts of it were pretty. I remember passing the Linky Stone children’s park with its fun statues and happy, kid-enticing climb-on-me things…. I remember newly paved trails painted with Swamp Rabbit Trail logos beneath my feet…. I remember looping around Mayberry Park and coming within 40 feet or so of a geocache for which I’d been FTF (first to find) a few years back.

For the most part, I didn’t pay much attention to my fellow runners, but I did watch for members of our group, being sure to emit an obnoxiously encouraging whoop when I saw someone.

There was one runner (a stranger — not one of “us”) who sounded like he was jamming on some bongos as he came up behind me. I glanced to my left as he ran beside me a few seconds, and he wasn’t playing the drums or carrying any noisemakers, but he was dressed a little strangely. Was he wearing a tie? I laughed out loud — as did several others around me — when he moved a little ahead so I could see better. He was wearing one of those long-sleeved tuxedo t-shirts and had five or six empty water bottles tied to his waist, which were noisily bumping the ground behind him. On the back of his shirt was pinned a handmade sign which read, “I’m getting married today.”

Haha!

It had been my intention to push harder at some point, but I lost track of where I was on the course, and I neared the finishing point long before I thought I should have. I did speed up a bit when I saw the clock in the distance, disappointed that it read 31 something. I’d wanted to get closer to 30.

What now? More races, baby! I’m going to do one in under 30 if it damn kills me. Many people in the group — myself included — are planning to continue meeting for the weekday and weekend runs, at least for awhile. Two weeks from today, there’s another 5K which we may run together.

In January, another running program will begin, and many in the group are excited about joining it. There is a rumor that this group will train for a 10K. Yike-a-zoids! That’ll put me back in the trenches with the non-coach gang, for sure. I think I’ll do it, maybe not to run a 10K (I don’t know if my lower body will be able to withstand the abuse) but to improve my 5K time.

As I write, it’s about 5 hours since I finished the race, and I’m NOT all “tore up” like I was after the Candlelight run. Maybe that’s a good sign.

I’m going to say it is, anyway.

(Wondering what a ‘neverdone’ is? Scroll down to check out the last post, or click here.)

It’s neverdone planning time!

Wow, it’s a landslide. ALL THREE of you said in my poll that you want to see more neverdones in 2009. :) Of course I still have to get through the rest of them this year….I have to complete four more to make my 12-in-one-year goal. Hmmmmmmm. Better get busy.

For those of you who would like a refresher or who weren’t reading mm back then, a ‘neverdone’ is my happy little made-up word for something I’ve never done before. Last year I pledged to get in an average of one per month during 2008. Having changed my entire LIFE in 2007 by creating a healthier lifestyle, I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose that spirit ….or the empowerment I felt from overcoming a hurdle or trying something new.

Anyway. It’s time for another list, don’t you think? I’ve repeated the previous items (wow, I hardly did anything on last year’s list), come up with some new ones, and added some that you guys have suggested throughout the year. Does anything look fun to you? Surely something does. Do it with me! Come on, let’s go!

run an 8K race
run a 10K race
try hardcore cycling
go on a lonnnnnnnng hike
do the mud run
enter flight school
play a paintball game
camp overnight on a beach
write a story based on family history
video my mom telling stories
do match.com
visit Yellowstone
do a kick-ass boot camp class
go on a cruise
go to a Mac conference
stay in an ice hotel
skydive
figure out how to live clutter-free
paint a mural
plant a garden
see the northern lights
take a wine tasting class
hop in the car and go on a long roadtrip — no planning
do 100 girly-knee pushups
do 50 buff-boy pushups
be a member of a TV show audience
do Vegas
see a live drag queen show
visit an active volcano
fly to the edge of space in a supersonic jet
write my will
spend a whole day at a spa
go zorbing
attend a scifi convention
experience zero gravity
drive a race car — fast
go on a safari
make a pilgrimage
knit something naughty
donate blood
volunteer during a holiday
take a fiction writing class
see the redwood trees in California
do a legal drug in Amsterdam
smoke a cigar to see what’s the big deal
build an elaborate sandcastle
create my own website (blog templates don’t count)
wax a body part
pierce an unusual body part
tattoo a body part
do something that scares me
karaoke
smoke a peace pipe
enter a juried art show
design my own apparel, then make it
script & shoot a short movie
send a postcard to Postsecret
earn a masters degree
learn to make sushi rolls
give someone else’s perversion a try
visit Stonehenge
throw a dart on a map and travel where it lands
make paper
write a book
visit the Grand Canyon
ride in a hot air balloon
attend a Buddhist service/seminar/retreat
ride an animal bigger than a horse
attend Burning Man
take a multi-day train trip
visit the flagship Apple store in NYC
drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Neverdone #8 :: Workin’ the stick, baby

I got a crash course this weekend in driving a stick shift! Whoo hoooooo!

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself sitting in the driver’s seat of a small pickup truck, staring at the intimidating FOUR pedals near my feet. A friend’s generous, patient, and knowledgeable brother G sat beside me.

Earlier that day, I’d done something I wish I hadn’t. I’d read a how-to article and watched a YouTube video on how to drive a stick shift. It sounded way too complicated, which made me very nervous. But G made me feel better as he explained the theory of a manual transmission versus an automatic. It mostly made sense. The thing that stood out as the most practical bit o’knowledge was that pressing in the clutch allowed you to change gears.

Here we go

“Now,” he said as we sat in his truck, “we’re just going to go back and forth in the driveway first. Then we’ll head out into the neighborhood.”

Oh, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into
, I thought to myself. Doesn’t he know my synapses are not firing properly nowadays? Hasn’t he ever heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

“Put your right foot on the brake and your left on the clutch. Press both of them all the way in.”

Yeah, OK. I can do that.

“Good, now let me watch as you go through the gears.”

I do it. It’s pretty easy to remember the locations, I thought.

“Great. Now put it in reverse, gradually ease up on the clutch, take your foot off the brake, and give it just a little gas. Then stop.”

Oh good lord. He wants me to move it now. Take a deep breath. It’ll be fine. Every single person you asked this weekend has told you it’s easy, so there’s no reason you can’t do it, too. You’re smart. You drove farm equipment when you were younger, right? Not exactly on a regular basis, but you did it.

Of course, it stalled on me the first time. And quite a bit thereafter. But we went through the driveway drills to his apparent satisfaction, because after a few minutes, he announced that I should back out of the driveway and go left.

Auuuuugh! Red light! Alarm! Danger! Code super-red!

“Um, do you promise that you have a very quiet, non-busy neighborhood?”

“Yep, you’ll be fine. Let’s go.”

Deep breath. You’ll be fine. Let’s go.

And y’know what? I was fine. During the drive, G explained that it was pretty impossible for me to damage his truck — or any vehicle — while going through the typical learning motions. The types of damages I’d heard about in the past were usually the result of prolonged bad habits, not a stupidass girl-mistake during a single drive. I felt a lot better after that.

I did some things quite well, I think, because many times he said something like “beautiful….that was perfect.” At one point he even said I was doing better than a lot of people on their first drives. And he liked that I stayed calm when I did make a mistake.

“Most beginners get in trouble on the road not because they can’t drive. They wig out and get too upset,” he said.

I handled my first hill without stalling and did an overall great job, G said, minimizing rollback on hills. At times I felt like I was really ‘getting it.’ I seemed to do much better when I wasn’t thinking about it too hard.

Then….

Then came The Evil Stop Sign of Great Frustration and Torture.

In a pedicament

I’d stalled at many stop signs, but was usually able to get going again after a minor delay. I think I was letting the clutch out too quickly and giving it too much gas, at which time I did something — not sure what — which, in my head, might prevent a lurch. Well, at this one bedeviled stop sign, I could NOT get going again. Let’s see if I can remember how many times I stalled by re-enacting my comments and expletives. To paint an accurate picture in your head, you’ll need to imagine G snickering a little in the background. Then chortling. Then laughing.

“Well. There I go again.” Restart. Stall.

“Crap.” Restart. Stall.

“Dammit.” Restart. Stall.

“Dammit, what am I doing wrong?” Restart. Stall.

“Dammit to hell!” Restart. Stall.

“Shit! I don’t understand. What am I doing?” Restart. Stall.

“Fuck.” Restart. Stall.

“Dammit to fucking hell.” Restart. Stall.

“Motherfucker.” Restart. Stall.

“Jesus!” Restart. Almost stall….. Damn. Stall.

“Goddammit, I don’t get it!” Restart. Stall.

“Goddammit to motherfucking hell.” Restart. Stall.

“Jesus motherfucking Christ.” Restart. Almost stall…..

“Oh, no, the hell you don’t!” Try to catch it…..sending a prayer to the manual transmission gods….

Yay, I finally made it happen!!! We were moving again.

Ending up all good

At the next stop sign, I spurned the brakes and only did a rolling stop because there was a family hanging out in a nearby yard. I refused to embarrass myself in front of actual people! I continued to practice my newfound rolling-stop talent until G made me stop again. Dammit. But I did that one OK, and no other frustration-filled, profanity-inducing stop signs presented themselves.

Another delay during the lesson involved a kid and his dog. No WAY was I going to get mobile again until both of them were far, far away from the truck. That wasn’t a driving problem, though. Just an I-don’t-want-to-kill-anyone thing.

Wondering why?

Want to know why I chose this weekend to learn to drive a stick? You see, my car died last week. I’ve been driving a rental since Wednesday, and am trying to make an informed, smart car-buying decision as quickly as possible. Saturday, I was enormously frustrated with the process when I ran across an online listing for the PERFECT little used Mini convertible, and it was sittin’ pretty on the Laurens Road motor mile. I rushed to the lot without reading the fine print.

Turns out the car was perfect except that it had a manual transmission and I couldn’t damn drive it.

I made a few venting phone calls, and to my surprise, several people said buy it anyway. A friend’s sister learned how to drive her new car on the way home from the dealership. Another friend said he did the same thing when he bought his first car. Even my 83-year-old mom said driving a manual car was easy…..”nothing to it!”

Hmmmm, so my quandary: should I spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment I don’t really know how to operate?

I’ve come to a decision, I think, but there are still some things up in the air. I’m tired of writing right now, so stay tuned.

Hey. I just created a cliffhanger. :)

Not quite neverdones

Way back in May, I mentioned a list I’ve been keeping on my laptop. It’s a list of neverdones that didn’t quite make official magicalmonkey status…things that seemed too contrived or too trivial or too….whatever.

What’s that? Do I hear a rumbling amongst you?

Yeah, OK. I’ll admit some of them which made the blog probably qualify as “trivial.” Pedicures and visits to oxygen bars are not exactly significant occurrences. And running has made the list so many times that it seems like ANY running topic should be off limits by now. I have no defense, really — only that I was in a mood to write when they happened. And it’s my blog. So there. :)

Well. Anyway, I figured that the 2008 half-way point was a good time to post the “lame neverdones” list so far. I’ll share more of them later if they seem interesting enough.

Size 6 jeans. It felt great last year when I fit into size 12 jeans for the first time in a couple of decades. Size 10 felt euphoric. Size 8 messed with my head a little — I never dreamed I’d be in a single-digit category again. Then size 6 rolled around, and….oh….my…..goodness! That is just so unbelievable it’s absurd. Technically, I’d never worn that size EVER, because the last time I wore jeans that small, I was buying the odd-number-sized clothes for juniors. But the bottom line for official neverdone status was that my ass was once the size it is now. Even though it was during junior high school.

Geocaching with kids. Ohhhhhhh wow! I promise you, geocaching with kids is not the same as geocaching. I am amused on SO many levels…..the questions, the stream-of-consciousness banter, the unfettered imagination, the absolute JOY of finding treasure! I’d wanted to post a blog entry containing nothing but the dialog, but I couldn’t remember it all. Maybe next time, I’ll take along a tape recorder and transcribe it for you. I didn’t count it as a neverdone because it just seemed like a closely-related subset of geocaching. I realize that running on the beach and running in a 5K are also subsets of running…..but…….eh.

Flash mob event / cache bingo. I attended my first geo-flash-mob-event this year and played a cool geo-game of cache bingo, but I didn’t count them as neverdones for the reason cited in the previous paragraph. Bingo was loads of fun, but the flash mob was not what I expected. That was partly my fault since I was running late, but it’s also the nature of that type of event. The whole thing was over by the time I smiled and said hi.

Beach trip philosophy. I took a weeklong all-female trip to the beach this year. I’ve done that many times before, but different this time was the overriding philosophy — do what YOU want. It was sort of assumed that you would be totally on your own the whole week — come and go as you please, sleep as long as you want, stay up as long as you want, go to the beach when and if you want, go into town when and if you want, partake in activities that you enjoy and do nothing that you don’t, and eat what and when you want. If your schedule or desires happened to coincide with someone else’s, you could do it together. Or not. No one’s feelings got hurt if you declined any sort of invitation to do something with the group, and when you did join in, everyone laughed and had a blast. Once in awhile I love to feed that anti-social part of me, and this trip hit the mark. Why didn’t it become an official neverdone? I think I just wasn’t in the mood to write about it. Too many other things were knocking around in my head at the time.

Relinquished hair control
. Never in my life have I said to a hair stylist, “Just do what you think is best.” I did last month, though. I’d heard so much about the talents of a friend’s sister that I completely trusted her judgement. I’m glad I did! This one didn’t become a neverdone because it seemed too….I don’t know…..vain, maybe?

Nose sweat. For the first time in memory, I worked out so hard that sweat dripped off the end of my nose. This amuses me, but I didn’t think it would amuse you. In fact, I suspected it would be just nasty and gross. So I spared you the blog post. I did share it with my spinning class instructor, though, since I figured she’d be proud to be the cause. Apparently she was proud, indeed, because during the next class she made me tell everyone about my fabulous little achievement.

Squid salad. Sounds nasty, but it’s not. It didn’t make the list because eating things I’ve never eaten before just seems like a piddly, stupid type of neverdone. Although, I promise you, that if I ever consume something like a bull penis, it WILL make the official list. Don’t watch for it, though. Seriously.

Ouch. How in the heck did I manage to grow up in the country and never get stung by a bee or a yellow jacket or a wasp or ANYthing? I did go outside quite a bit, I swear. Hung out in fields, by the creek, in the garden, and in the woods. Maybe I lived in a fairytale land where all the insects were nice. Like that bee movie where Tim Allen did the voiceover for the main character. I didn’t see the movie, actually, but in the previews it looked like all the bees were nice. And, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t Tim Allen….hmmmm. Well, anyway, yesterday I got stung by something — I think it was a yellow jacket — while jumping a teensy weensy creek to get to a geocache. It didn’t become a neverdone because it seemed so passive — it took no effort…I did nothing to earn it.

Neverdone #7 :: Phoenix (and I’m not talkin’ Arizona)

Last Saturday night I had a major-whompin’ kickass adventure!!! It was a night which made me fully understand WHY I spend hours in the gym each week — why I turn up the spinning-class bike resistance until my thighs burn…..why I sweat the cardio until I’m drenched all over….why I perform pulldowns, curls, extensions, and raises until my muscles quiver.

Is it just so I can go back to the gym and do it again the next week? Like a hamster on his little wheel?

Nooooooooooo!! I spend hours in the gym each week so I can get out there in real life and freakin’ participate.

Now. I’m afraid I’ve got a bit of a letdown for you. I can’t tell you much about the adventure itself. You see, I want to go back. And I want to take some of YOU with me! If I told you all about it, it would spoil the polka-dotted crotchless underpants off of all your fun. And fun is more fun when it is wearing polka-dotted crotchless underpants.

So this post is actually going to be a pitch. You, my friends, will want to taste the adrenaline for yourself.

The challenge

It began as a teaser post in the Upstate SC Geocachers Association (USCGA) forum. One member had just returned from beta-testing a new night/multi/puzzle geocache. About a week later, a second beta-tester chimed in. Between their two accounts, the rest of us learned that this was a brain-draining, brawn-challenging, stamina-testing, fabulous MOTHER of a multi-stage adventure. One tester had thousands of caches under his belt, and he rated it among his top experiences. The creator of the new adventure had spent an entire year planning, scheming, consulting, and building.

Finally, the cache, named “Athena’s Curse,” was approved and published. Here’s the abbreviated gist:

PROLOGUE. The ancient Greek society had in their mythology more titans, gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines and creatures than any other culture in history. They also had some of the greatest minds in history, some of whom discovered and established rules in mathematics, geometry, and physics that are still valid today.

STORY. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage, learned that her temple was degraded by Poseidon and one of the Gorgons. In her fury, Athena cursed the mortal, turning the maiden’s beautiful golden hair into serpents and making her face so horrid that any living creature looking into her gaze would turn to stone.

MISSION. You, as an adventurer, must find and open the mortal’s lair where she has hoarded the stolen treasures from her victims. To find the treasure you seek, you must summon the help of mystical figures and mortals. But great care should be taken NOT to cross path with her sisters Stheno and Euryale.

PREPARATION. Read this description very carefully, search for hidden clues, and heed all warnings! Since this is a cache you will hunt in darkness, it would be wise to learn about methods of communication designed for such conditions.

CHECKLIST. These things are not all inclusive, but are definitely required: team mate, time, headlamp, pen, notebook, darkness, TV remote control, research notes, flashlight with strong focused beam, water, snacks, heavy duty work gloves, small towel, 4 AA batteries, compass, trade item, bug spray, comfortable shoes, a tender touch, the ability to make one pull-up, and a willingness to navigate, walk, run, sneak, crawl, limp, fly, wade, climb, stagger, and stroll on a path in the woods at night.

NOTES. “Athena’s Curse” is not for the lily-livered, yellow-bellied, willy-nilly, wimpy, acrophobic, timid, faint hearted, or claustrophobic. Be prepared for a real adventure with lots of different activities, surprises, and fun that will challenge your physical and mental abilities. Do your homework and take good notes, or you’re toast !!!!

LEGAL DISCLAIMER. You are attempting this Geocache hunt of your own free will and responsibility; you have not been coerced in any way by the cache owner or anyone at Geocaching.com to do so. If you are placed in any danger, sickness, compromising situation or are injured due to the actions of yourself, other people, wild or domestic animals or the natural and man made environment around you, you must take care of yourself and your situation – we are not at fault and/or responsible. … Remember, it was your choice to go on this hunt and it is your choice to participate in the sport of geocaching.

The preparation

Yikes, that disclaimer made me stop and wonder! Ha!! But NO WAY was it going to scare me into not going. I’m not afraid — no, sir!

Guessing that it may be awhile before I’d be able to go, I watched the cache listing on geocaching.com (most of you are not able to access the cache description since it’s a members-only cache; otherwise, I’d give you a direct link)…. waiting with great anticipation for the first finders to tell us about their experiences. And I was not disappointed! Here are some excerpts:

After meeting the cache owner for a beverage we assembled at the starting point and were off. Over the next five and a half hours we just had fun! We made some mistakes, used our wits (or what was left of our wits), did some pretty crazy stuff, and laughed, grinned, and cursed! … This cache supplants all others in western North Carolina as THE epic caching adventure! Some caches may take longer to complete, and some you may have to travel over greater distances, but this cache — IMHO — should now be the standard by which other extreme caches are measured.

The craftsmanship put into this cache will leave you speechless. The physical portion will bring out the inner child in all of us. You will be tired, you will be tested, and you will feel as if you had been on a true adventure.

I have found many challenging hides. This one comes in at the most challenging – physically and mentally. And yet it was fun. Each stage was a different idea executed and presented very well …. We were marveled and awed at every turn.

We started at approx 9:00pm and finished up around 4:45am … I would compare it to the TV show FEAR FACTOR. If you love a challange then this one is for you. … The story behind it was great and every part along the way up to the plot had your mind wondering what in the world could get better than this.

Right from the beginning we knew this was going to be a long and intense night. The tecnology, engineering, time and money put into this cache is incredible!! If you like puzzles that are clever, evil and fantastic that will challenge you both mentally and physically then this one is a MUST DO!!!

It’s as if Disneyland, basic training, college mythology finals, and a metric ton of laughs and thrills have been somehow squashed together. … At one moment, Athena will test you. The next it will be Hades. Or just maybe Cyclops will snatch certain victory from your grasp, and you’ll swear revenge when the momentum is on your side! Each will cause you to think outside of the box, thrill you completely, leave you with that “how did he do that?” smile, and then burn the calories right out of those thighs… but you love it!!!

OK, the “Fear Factor” comparison concerned me for a second. Maybe three. But after reading the comments, I wanted to do it even more, and I could NOT wait!! I kept watching the USCGA forum to see when a group might go. At one point, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to join them on the date they were planning, so I started to plant seeds with some friends and co-workers. Just little seeds. A tease here and there. I started to gear up for the sales pitch of my life — which, I feared, was what it would take to convince you guys to go with me. Many of you just sort of look at me, bemused and a bit droopy-eyed-bored, when I talk about geocaching. You seem to be thinking, “I can’t freakin’ believe she has free time and does THAT with it. What is wrong with her?”

But, joy of mega-huge orgasmic joys, the USCGA peeps changed their date, and I was in!!!! It was the same fun gang (well, almost the same gang) from ‘Strangers in the night.’

So. Where should I start? I’d need to get some sort of waterproof container for my iPhone, and I’d need a new backpack since my old one had bitten the dust years ago. I noticed that wading was mentioned….good lord, I hoped my waterproof hiking boots would suffice because I certainly wasn’t going to buy wading boots. I hadn’t tried pullups in quite some time, but I kicked ass with the machine pulldowns I did regularly…….um, OK, maybe semi-regularly……when I felt like it. Hmmmmm, I’m sure it’ll be good enough. Right? Right.

And, oh yeah, there’s the hell my lower body had been in since the Candlelight Run the week before. My feet were still achy and tingly and numb in places and seemed to be on the verge of cramping all the time…..and my knees were, um, weird. I’d get a sort of startling pain for a nanosecond now and then. Ahhhhh wellll….fuck it. If I could handle a 3-mile run, I could certainly handle a low-impact hike. Right? Right. But, in case I needed them, I packed a bunch of ibuprophen for pain and potassium tabs for cramping.

I had all the other checklist items taken care of….well, except the headlamp. Geesh, a headlamp?? Why in the world would I need to strap a light to my noggin if I have a high-powered flashlight in my hand? And where would I even get one, anyway? Coal Miners R Us? On top of that, the whole light-attached-to-my-head notion just gave me giggle fits. Ha!!! I’m not sure why. Maybe in a previous life there was an incident with a clown, a monkey, and a headlamp. Maybe the monkey strapped one on……

[ gasp!! ] Oh, wait, I realize now why it’s funny!!! It just came to me! Hahahaahaaaaaa!

Goodness gracious….I know the placement isn’t like a headlamp, exactly, but I guess my brain was making a leap somewhere between ‘strap on’ and ‘head’……

HahahaaaahahahaaaaaaHAAAHAHAHA!!!!

Sigh….

OK. I’m fine now. Really.

[ insert snort here ] HAHAHAhahahahahahahahahaaaaa!!

Just for the record, I am not laughing at you if you own or have played with one of these. On the contrary, I’d really appreciate it if you’d e-mail me to explain, specifically, the turn-on factor.

Wait a minute…

Hmmmm…..on second thought, I’m putting the puzzle together in my head…..

O….K……

Ahem.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. So I asked around the office about headlamps (hahahahahaaaa!!) and one frequent camper looked at me, amused at and bewildered by my ignorance, and said, in that tone of voice you use when speaking with a slow 5-year-old, “Yeah. Our whole family has them. Even the kids have their own.”

Dammit. Fine. I decided to cave and buy one.

I went to Mast General Store that day at lunchtime, and they had a slew of choices. The salesperson who nabbed me asked a lot of questions in an attempt to fit me with the right product, so I ended up telling her about geocaching and “Athena’s Curse”….she was fascinated, and we chatted so long that I was afraid she’d get in trouble for spending too much time with me.

Anyway, I settled on a fun orange one with a flame design on the head strap (hahahahahahahaaaaa!!!!) that was made for kids (oooohhhhhhhh, THAT picture in my head is so wrooonnnng…no more laughing). I just liked the fashion statement, I guess. It turned out NOT to be a practical choice, though, because within a day or two I realized that it was not water resistant — and there was a chance of rain the night of our adventure. So I had to buy a second one since I’d already opened Mr. Flamey Headlamp and thrown away the package.

What was left to prepare? I did my research on the ancient Greeks — the myths were fascinating, even though I felt like I was cramming for an exam — and made PDF cheat sheets to print and email to the rest of the gang. I bookmarked helpful sites on my iPhone. Then I decided to try and get my days and nights turned around, so I made arrangements with my boss to work ‘second shift’ the day before the adventure. Cool, huh? I love my boss!

And, last but not least, I made a plan to avoid that dreaded potential necessity — peeing in the woods. I hydrated like a m’f#cker the day before and the morning of, and drastically cut my water consumption after that. I’d done something similar before the 5K, as recommended by seasoned runners.

I was ready, baby.

The night

Shortly after 8:30pm, the seven of us loaded into two vehicles and carpooled from Spartanburg to the cache location in Columbus, NC. Driving up to the parking coordinates, we saw another car there — another team had apparently begun the first stages. As we were getting ready to set out ourselves (my priorities were mega-dosing some preventive ibuprophen and applying copious amounts of bug spray), the cache owner showed up to greet us.

He was a jovial, cigar-smoking, rugged man with a heavy Greek accent, and I smiled as I caught on to his ancestral connection with Greek mythology and history. He was OBviously having buckets of fun! The entire night, he went back and forth between our team and the other team, popping in and out on his 4-wheeler, laughing with us and making sure we were doing OK.

“It is so fun to watch people when you know what they are looking for, and they don’t,” I heard him tell someone early in the night, as he laughed heartily and took a lonnnnng drag on his cigar.

Also early in the night, we ran across the m’f-ing biggest MUTANT of a spider I have ever seen. Check out the picture, taken by one adventurer who brought his point-and-shoot. The leaf that the freak-of-an-arachnid is sitting on? It spanned a generous 8 inches. Aaaaaaaaaaaaackkk!!

By the way, have you ever heard of butthole spiders? They come out at night, and can be quite sneaky should you decide to sit down in the forest. They didn’t scare one 13-year-old boy, though, who accompanied his dad on our night caching trek. Duhhh — you just insert a tampon, he said. Then you will have NO problems with butthole spiders.

I learned a few other things. One thing is that it IS possible to avoid peeing in the woods while adventur-izing for 7 or so hours — yes, my no-pee strategy worked! Yay! Another thing I learned is that a headlamp, while actually useful for several reasons, will attract flying insects to your face, which means you are subject to sucking in a bug or two when you talk. And one of the wing-batting varmints may mistake your ear for an inviting bug cave. Yikes!! And, finally, I learned that AT&T reception is spotty in the woods in Columbus. It turned out that my iPhone was not much of a comparison to a teammate’s Verizon device. Dammit.

An excerpt from my own log on the “Athena’s Curse” geocaching.com page:

“A M A Z I N G !!! How many times during the night did I gape at something, in awe of the inventiveness, skill, time, and expense behind it?? Wow. Unbelievable. Holy cow. Far OUT, man. Phenomenal. I felt like I was in the middle of a treasure-hunting reality show with a pretty decent budget for materials and special effects. … Meeting the cache owner was an honor and a pleasure, even though I felt a little stomach-churning action when he pointed at me and said, “You. You are the one for ‘Phoenix’.” Auuugh!!! Why me?? But then it turned out to be my superfavorite part of the evening, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the entire world.”

And you, dear readers, get a visual peek at ‘Phoenix.’ See the picture? I’ve entitled it “Lisa in Chains.” Alice has nothing on ME. :) Ha!

Did you catch a couple mm readers’ comments on the June 22nd post? One person, a USCGA member, penned this on the day we were meeting to do the cache: “Get ready for tonight with your headlamp. Who knows, you just might end up flat on your back with your legs up in the air again tonight. What happens in the dark woods, stays in the dark woods.”

Well. My legs were in the air, that’s for damn sure.

A second USCGA member’s mm comment was posted a couple days after we did the cache: “Heh…heh… Where else but on a night cache would half-a-dozen people be yelling at Lisa to get her legs up!!!”

The ‘neverdone’

I can’t tell you the details, but I assure you that ‘Phoenix’ was an official neverdone. :) Trust me. I deserve credit for this one — I’m told I almost took out my shins. That would’ve sucked. *

The call for new adventurers

Curious?

I know you are. I can hear your brain-wheels turning.

Come on.

LIVE life.

Let’s go.

Call me, and we’ll plan. :)

* By the way, here’s a tip for anyone who needs to get something through my thick head while I am busy, excited, nervous, or otherwise distracted: make me look at you, make me repeat what it is you need me to know, and watch for that glimmer of understanding in my eyes. Otherwise, I may just be nodding in an automatic reaction to words being tossed in my general direction. It’s sort of like trying to communicate with a man who has a remote in his hand.

Neverdone #6 :: A breath of fresh air, artificially generated

While kickin’ around downtown Greenville today, a friend and I noticed a new store called Healthy Lounge. We strolled in to check out the place…..it had a minimalistic, contemporary vibe, happy and peaceful. They had a few products along one wall, but it turned out that their main business is “rapid recharge” — stress-relieving services which include high-tech lounge chair massages, foot baths, and oxygen therapy.

Ahhhhh, an opportunity for a neverdone, I thought to myself. What joy! I can pay these folks some money to breathe their fancy air.

A hip young dude led us to a corner where an end-table-sized machine awaited. He dialed in our aromatherapy choices — I chose mint rosemary and my friend chose orange peppermint — and left us to hang out in their comfy chairs and chat whilst wearing colorful oxygen tubes hooked around our ears and shoved up our noses.

Sexy, huh? Yeah, yeah….I felt a little silly. But that’s not an unusual feeling for me, so I leaned back and embraced it.

I don’t know if it really DID anything. Maybe it did. I think it did. At least now I can say I’ve been to an oxygen bar…..it’ll make me seem really groovy and sophisticated to people who think trendy therapies are groovy and sophisticated.

I think I’ll go back to experience one of their superduper shiatsu chair machines. One of them will do your ass. I asked.

Neverdone #5 :: Extra pretty toes

Almost every single time, I get the same reaction. When I tell a girlfriend — or any female acquaintance, for that matter — that I have never had a pedicure, she will throw back her head, roll her eyes toward the heavens, and exclaim, “Ohhhhhhhhhh my GOD! You HAVE to get one! It is the BEST THING EVERRRR!!”

So I decide on my beach trip to make an appointment at a day spa, and I punctuate the package with a fun little treat for my toes. My reaction to the pedicure?

Eh.

Oh well. I suppose not every neverdone can have an ecstatic outcome. Yeah, the accompanying foot/calf massage was pleasurable in an anticlimactic sort of way, and my toe cuticles are now in primo condition. It makes my tired, deserving feet feel pampered and really pretty, and the super-spa-quality polish will probably last a long time. But, from an aesthetic point of view, it’s not a much better job than I could have done myself. I doubt I’d pay for another one.

Don’t get me wrong…..I’m glad I did it! I had a multi-fabulous 2-3 hours at a place which made me feel like a princess. It was cool to go from soothing-back-room to soothing-back-room wearing one of their soft, comfy robes, carrying a cup-and-saucer dose of lemon-ginger green tea. Later, when I asked for some water, they brought it to me in a champagne glass. Melinda herself (the place, located in North Myrtle Beach, was named Melinda’s Day Spa) did my pedicure, and she was a fun, interesting person. I never got the courage to ask her about the dainty gold pendant hanging from her neck — it featured a naked couple, embracing while facing each other on their knees. Sort of like this but without the pentagram design in the back. Was it a symbol that she’s into….something unconventional? Maybe just a loving gift from her husband? Or a subtle suggestion that they may have other services besides those on the published list? Hmmmmmmm. I tried not to stare at it.

Anyway…….

Did you catch the ‘anticlimactic’ part a couple paragraphs ago? Don’t think this post will be without a fun story. Let me tell you about the massage I had beforehand.

I signed up for an 80-minute full body integrated massage. Upon your arrival, you’d have a conversation with your therapist about your aches, pains, and goals for the time, and that person would decide which special techniques, if any, would need to be integrated. My appointment was with a dude named — um, let’s call him Tony. He sort of looked like a Tony.

When I first started getting massages back in the mid 90s, I said I’d never go to a male therapist. It would be too weird. But every so often I wouldn’t have a choice because of schedules and availability, and I eventually discovered that, in general, I liked the men better. I don’t know if women just don’t have the upper body strength or if they are just afraid to employ heavy, therapeutic pressure, but rarely do they get in there and… ahem, satisfy me. Maybe I just haven’t found the right woman. Or maybe I’m masochistic, and men are more willing to slip into the accompanying sadistic role. Ha!

So I wasn’t too nervous about Tony. I would’ve been more comfortable if he’d been unthreateningly gay, but I suppose I can’t always have everything I want. He was very professional and went to great lengths to ensure that I felt a high level of trust and comfort.

“Now, I don’t want you to give me one of those girly massages,” I laughed as we exchanged pleasantries in the lobby. “I want therapeutic, not relaxing.”

What I wanted to say, which I think would have been a little clearer: Do it hard. Use every muscle you have to do it hard, and I mean HARD. Do it so hard that you will need a massage after you’re done with me. And go deep, buddy. Go deep, all the way to freakin’ China. Don’t let a tiny ligament stop you. Get in between whatever you need to. Just GO DEEP. Hard and deep, baby, hard and deep. Do you understand? HARD and DEEP.

But that would’ve been awkward. I hoped my ‘therapeutic’ comment would suffice.

“Let me tell you what I need,” I began, as we headed toward the back. “You know that neck problem you get where you can’t turn your head? I’m beginning to get over that, but would like some help working the rest of it out.”

“No problem, I’ll fix you right up,” he said, as we entered a little room filled with ocean waves, classical music, and soothing scents.

“But, way more important than my neck is to loosen my lower body. I’ve been trying,” I chuckled, “to become a runner, and my lower body is feeling abused and tight, tight, tight. The worst parts are my hamstrings, IT band, lower back, and hips.”

“You’ll walk out of here feeling like a new woman,” he assured me as he slipped out so I could undress and get under the crisp sheet and fuzzy, light blanket.

He started with my calves and worked his way up, one leg at a time. Just as I suspected, when he got to the backs and sides of my legs, he found knots. Still trying to find a delicate way to convey the amount of pressure I wanted — and of course the word ‘pressure’ never occurred to me during the whole 80 minutes — I said, “you can go harder if you need to.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t. I’ll holler if you do, but, trust me, you won’t.”

He chuckled. “Well, just don’t yell too loud. My boss will wonder what’s going on in here.”

“Well, you won’t hurt me, I promise.”

So he went deeper into my hamstring, and it felt gooooooooooood.

What I wanted to say: Ohhhhhhhhhhh, yeeeeeeeeaahhhhh! Oh my god, that feels sooooooo gooooooooooood. Go harder. Deeper. Don’t stop. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Goooooooooood LORD, that’s wonderful.

“That’s the spot,” I said, “and it feels awesome.”

“Good.”

So, after a glorious 15 minutes or so, he abandoned my legs and hesitated. “I have to ask,” he said. “We have rules. Do you mind if I lift the sheet to reach…. ?”

He meant my ass, but stopped short of the end of his sentence. If I’d known him better, I would’ve said: Good lord, of course you can lift the sheet. Get on with it. You’re wasting time.

“Nope, I don’t mind.”

So he folded back one side of the sheet and got to work. And I am here to tell you, my friends, that NOTHING feels better than an ass massage when your glutes are tight and knotted, and the area deep inside your hips is sore and out of whack. A couple of times he acted as if he would stop and move on to the next body part, but I wouldn’t let him, asking him to move up or down or deeper…anything to ensure he wouldn’t stop.

“I can feel I’m breaking up a lot of knots,” he said. “Are you beginning to feel better?”

“Oh, yes, you were right — when I leave, I’ll leave brand new and feeling great.”

I kept asking him to press harder. And harder. Finally, I guess I convinced him he could do his maximum, because he stopped those annoying I-don’t-want-to-hurt-you comments, and even let out a grunt or two.

When he happened upon the spot in my lower back/hip that my chiropractor’s been working on……ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! This time, I couldn’t help it. I actually said what was on my mind.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I wasn’t as eloquent as I would’ve been a few minutes earlier. He must’ve massaged my brains out.

He laughed. “That feels good, does it?”

“Yeeeeeesssssss.”

“You should get your husband or boyfriend — or both — to massage this area for you every day.”

“Hmmm. Yeah. I’ll see what I can do about that.”

Eventually, sadly, regrettably, he told me that we only had 10 minutes left. Wow, he must’ve spent more than half of our allotted time on just my ass! He did a quick job on my back (I mean he massaged my back, for those of you whose dirty little minds produced a different sort of picture) before moving, finally, to my neck and shoulders.

“You should see another massage therapist when you go back home,” he advised. “Your neck is full of knots, too, and we don’t have enough time to work them out today.”

His finale was a scalp massage which felt tingly and nice, but — oh my goodness — it was just no comparison to the afternoon’s ass crescendo.

That’s why the ensuing pedicure was anticlimactic.

Neverdone #4 :: Running on the beach

I imagined I’d post a few times during my weeklong visit to Sunset Beach, but ya know…..there always seemed to be something a little better to do. :) Right now I’m sitting at a cute little bagel shop on my way out of town, and I don’t want to leave. It’ll be good to get home for a lot of reasons, but I don’t want to leave!

I scored a couple neverdones this week….I’ll go ahead and tell you about the first one.

Official neverdone status
I have a text document in a tiny little corner of my hard drive entitled “Lame Neverdones.” In it I’ve been saving a list of things I’ve never done, but which don’t seem significant enough to rate official neverdone status. It’ll eventually be a post, so you guys will be able to read them all. At the beginning of this week, I’d added “running on the beach” to this list.

I mean, enough about running already….right? You guys have GOT to be tired of reading about it. I know you rolled your eyes when you read the post title. Don’t deny it.

BUT during my second-ever beach run — on Monday, my second full day at Sunset Beach — I decided it was so beautiful, so enjoyable, so wonderful that it deserves a place of honor on mm. You see, my recent obsession with exercise is all about that feeling I get afterward — the kicky endorphins, the ohhhhh-so-gooooood physical exhaustion. While I’m running, there’s an occasional “I’m-a-machine” moment which feels good, but mostly I’m just sweating and gasping and praying that there’ll be an anomalous time warp so that 30 minutes will seem like one.

I realized on Monday, though, that I was actually enjoying the run itself. What a bejesus-inducing surprise!

A little history
Before this past year, the only time in my life that I actually enjoyed running was during recess in grade school. I accidentally discovered that I was pretty fast one day when an obnoxious, grubby little boy named Robert chased me across a field with a wet, ugly toad wriggling in his fat, dirty fingers. I left him in my proverbial dust. After that — left mostly to our own devices with an old, deserted baseball field in our play area — I’d convince a few young classmates to run impromptu races. I usually won….but only if we were racing to the dugout. If the distance were any shorter, I wouldn’t have enough time to make up for my slow start. Any further, and I’d run out of steam before the end. I loved to go fast!!

In ensuing years, though, I forgot that I enjoyed running. More than that — I learned to hate it. In high school when I was on the basketball team, our running mostly consisted of those evil wind sprints that hold your lungs hostage, and you were NOT allowed to quit in order to catch your breath. Then there were those days when you had to run five laps every time you missed a basket. Then occasionally we had to do twenty laps around the gym right after practice. No reason, really. Just because.

After I graduated from high school and stopped playing team sports, I never thought about running again…..until last year when I was looking for efficient ways to burn fat.

Back to 2008
Anyway…..back to Monday when I actually enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t the obligatory C25K workout. I’d done 30 minutes, per the program, the day before with one of my beach buds. On Monday, I decided to just get out there alone and do whatever I felt like doing, my happy little Shuffle clipped to my tank top. I wound up playing a heart rate game — first slow and easy, then speed up to a medium pace, then slow and easy, then sprint, then slow and easy again. Etcetera. It was fun, fun! The view was extraordinary, the breeze ensured I never dripped with sweat, and I felt like a member of an elite club as I smiled and waved to the occasional fellow runner. And the cute little gray birds — sandpipers, maybe? — made me laugh. They chased the tide in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out, with tiny, superquick, determined legs, pecking at yummy bird-candy morsels in the shallow water.

As I neared Bird Island on the south end of the beach, the people became so scarce that it was easy to pretend there was no one else in the world. What a feeling! I decided to climb over the rocks at the end, and it was even MORE beautiful. Ahhhhhhhh! I went back with my camera the following day, but I don’t think I did the place justice. I’ll post more pictures later, but, for now, check out the photo above. That free-and-happy dude is approaching the tip of Bird Island.

I ran almost every day this week. Yesterday, I think, was better than Monday. I didn’t mess around with medium paces at all. I’d walk, then sprint….walk, sprint….walk, sprint…walk, sprint… I love to go fast!!

Bliss. We all should follow it. :)

Guess I should hit the road home now…..

Sigh.

Neverdone #3 :: 5K!

I did it, I did it, I did it!!

It wasn’t the run I’ve been training for — that one’s not until June — but on a whim this past week, I signed up to run a 5K on Friday evening. It was an easy commitment since a lot of coworkers were participating, my employer paid the entry fee, and the race director even hand-delivered an entry form to my office. It was written in the stars, man!

How did I justify the run with my falling-apart body, you ask? My Sunday and Tuesday training runs went pretty well, so of course I felt invincible again. And, hey, I figured I had to do my third training run of the week anyway…..I may as well pin a number on my shirt and run with a hundred or two others. I could always walk a bit of it if I petered out, or if something started to hurt.

Honestly, I was expecting to have to walk part of it. So in typical Lisa fashion, I made it a personal goal to NOT walk at all. Geesh, it’s boring to have realistic goals, don’t you think?

There was a bit of lag time between registration and the start of the race, so I stood around getting advice from the people who had run and/or walked this particular 5K in the past. One coworker touched my arm and laughed, “You are so cute! You’re really excited, aren’t you?”

Ha! I didn’t ask what I said or did to make her think that, but she was right….not the cute part, but the excited part. :) This would be a big neverdone for me — I’d never entered a race, not even during my lazily “athletic” days in high school.

They announced it was almost time to start, so the crowd converged. I said goodbye to my pre-race bud because she was walking and was supposed to stay at the back. I moved forward and found an empty little spot to stand where I could prep my Shuffle, which I’d brought to help me with pacing. All the songs are in order of beats per minute, so I found the section I’d been playing during my recent training runs. I queued the first song to “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing. 128 bpm.

The horn sounded, and we were off. It was a slow little jog at first, but very quickly the speed picked up. It was incredibly difficult to run at the slooooooww pace I’d pre-determined with my first song….in fact, I just couldn’t do it. I had energy, I was ready to go, go, GO! Plus I felt a ton of pressure to keep up with the other runners around me. I kept forwarding my Shuffle to the next song, looking for something just a little faster.

Finally, I ran across an hour-long Podrunner mix I could live with, adjusting my speed down just a tad. I fell into stride with the beat. It still seemed slow, but, knowing I had to last awhile, I shoved that nagging peer pressure to the back of my brain.

At mile one, they called out “10:58!” when I passed.

I tried to distract myself from my tight leg muscles by watching the runners around me. There was a speed walker who glided nearby. Up ahead, there was a skinny bald guy with whom I was keeping pace. There were several women and teenagers who passed me, then later I passed them, then later they passed me again….we zigzagged like that almost the whole way. My self esteem fell backward a notch when a young woman jogged steadily past me, pushing a baby stroller.

At mile two, I heard “22:29!” shouted at me above the funky Podrunner medley. I was convinced I’d not be able to run another mile, but at the same time I was determined not to break stride with the song.

It was not easy. But, in a perfect example of mind over body, I did it. I ran — OK, jogged — past the large digital timer at the finish line just as it flashed “36:13.” Not great, but not shameful. And NOT ONCE did I walk!

At home about an hour later, parts of my lower body were throbbing in disconcerting ways. I stretched for quite a long time in front of the TV. An hour after that, most of the throbbing parts had decided to hurt. I mega-dosed some ibuprophen, took a loooooong hot shower, and went to bed.

I’m fine today!

So far, anyway.

Neverdone #2 :: Running with the devil

I can’t prove it. But after careful consideration of all the possibilities, I’ve concluded that I must be possessed by a sadistic devil.

Maybe it’s the ghost of someone who has recently passed away, someone I was mean to in my younger days. I was a pretty sweet kid until I hit my early teens….I wish I’d known back then that my rebellious, selfish little 13-year-old attitude might one day create some pretty dire consequences. Or maybe it’s someone I knew in college, back when I was so intent on pursuing my newfound freedoms that I didn’t notice I’d injured someone’s feelings quite badly. Or maybe it’s not personal after all….maybe it’s just a mischievous entity that came across my deviant, slothful soul completely at random.

How do I know I’m possessed?

It’s Saturday. The one morning of the week I cherish as my relaxation time. For a few tranquil hours, I sit on my blue couch while sipping freshly brewed coffee, cuddling with my cats, surfing aimlessly on my laptop, and watching TV shows I’d DVR’d throughout the week. If I feel particularly productive, I might blog some sort of nonsense. I protect this time. I decompress from the energies of the previous week. I “meditate” through mindless, stress-free, brain-resting, low-key activity.

But last week, I did something that will effectively end my blissful ritual throughout the entire springtime. It’ll force me out of my happy, comfortable home at a freakin’ obscene hour every single Saturday morning for the next 12 weeks. I will roll out of bed before 7am… slide into, ahem, *athletic* clothes… skulk, bleary-eyed, into my car… and drive 20 minutes across town to have someone chase me up and down the streets of Greenville at, I’m guessing, 5-7mph.

I signed up for a group running program.

I would never do this of my own free will. My weekends have always, always been about sleeping as late as possible and putting out only enough effort to get me through whatever idle amusements may strike my lazy-ass fancy. To get up and get dressed and leave the house before 8am when I don’t *have* to? Not possible! To go through all that in order to do something NOT gratifying in an immediately pleasure-inducing way?? I must be possessed!

I know the running is good for me. So perhaps I won’t seek an exorcist, allowing the devil to stay warm and snug within me. Maybe the vile little thing will create some other sort of havoc, too, to keep me entertained in the coming months. You know how I hate to be bored.

Hey, now I’ve got a devil AND a pixie! Awesome.

Anyway…..

This morning was our first run, in a cool, sprinkling rain which, by the time we were done, had my hands numb (why did I leave my gloves in the car?) and my hair soaked. To my surprise, I performed pretty well, but I’m not expecting that to last. Within a few weeks, I’m sure my cardiovascular system will suffer in ways I haven’t experienced since basketball practice in high school. But, if I’m successful in the program, it’ll lead to another neverdone — my first 5K!

We’ll see how it pans out.

( Don’t know what a ‘neverdone’ is? Click here >> * )

Neverdone #1 :: Strangers in the night

If Frank Sinatra began crooning in your head when you read this blog title, you can stop him right now. Offer him a dry martini and invite him to sit down in the back of the room. The tender interlude in his song is not where my story will lead you.

Now, I can imagine that you’ve been sitting on the edge of your hot little seats, in orgasmic anticipation of the very first item in my yearlong ‘neverdone’ series. What would it be? Would I go off a freakish deep end and do something heretofore unimaginable, or would I somehow adapt one of my weirdly inane posts about the goings-on in my head?

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I have a really wacked-out imagination and an obviously elevated opinion of my own importance. I realize that any “orgasmic anticipation” you’ve experienced lately has nothing to do with me…..or at least I assume that is the case, since it hasn’t happened in my presence. But, hey…. I can create whatever universe I choose inside my own head. This week I have been feeling quite center-of-the-world-ish. And, as you’ve already discovered if you’ve done any scrolling down, pretty darn chatty.)

(Anyway…..)

Last weekend was full of so many neverdone items that, if I used them all, I wouldn’t have to post another one until the summer!

I’ve never gotten into a van at night with 6 semi-strangers and headed to the mountains. I’ve never tromped around in the woods during the most obscene nighttime hours, beams from my flashlight reflecting gems off the surrounding dew. I’ve never met a huge, surprisingly cuddly-looking rat who’d made a comfy home in someone’s long-abandoned house. I’ve never felt the primal ….umm…”pleasure” of emptying my bladder in the woods. I’ve never been geocaching in a group larger than three people.

So I guess that last sentence gave it away, huh? I went night caching with some people from the Upstate SC Geocachers Association (USCGA).

Why did I go??
It is whompin’ leagues outside my comfort zone to invite myself on a road trip with people I barely know. And this, my friends, is a big reason why I did it. My comfort zone is too complacent, too ordinary, too safe. I don’t like my comfort zone anymore. It’s boring. I want to force myself out of that sleepy place…..in fact, I’m using my neverdones as a catalyst.

The other big reason is that I’ve been SOOOO starved for a good, decent cache run…..it’s been well over a year since I left the house with a geo-bud for an all-day adventure full of treasure hunts and hiking and fresh air and bushwhacking and exploration and inspiration and good old-fashioned stress-bustin’ fun. I’d been on a few afternoon trips, but those were just appetizers that made me crave a big, juicy, open-your-mouth-wide-and-bite-hard slab o’meat. Medium rare.

The original plan that a friend and I had on Saturday was to attend a USCGA coffee event after grabbing some yummy Asian fare. I read in the club’s online forum that a few people were planning to knock out a new series of night caches afterward, and I was pretty darn close to convincing my friend that we should go with them. I mean, it wouldn’t be weird if both of us went, right? But then she caught a nasty little bug which laid her up at home the whole weekend, and I wound up having to bring a ton of work home. Since I’d posted in the forum that we were probably in for the cache run, I called one of the geocachers to decline….and, instead, he ended up convincing me to join them. Honestly, though, it didn’t take much convincing. His excitement was lightspeed contagious!

Before midnight
Around 8:30 or so Saturday evening, I sat in my car in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, those telltale white wires trailing from my Shuffle to my eardrums. Cranking up the volume of a favorite running tune, Prince sang that he really does love me, but not like he loves his guitar. I wondered whether I might someday develop a special relationship with an inanimate object. But then I realized I already had–my Nikon and my Mac. Instruments of my creativity, just like Prince and his guitar. Well, maybe not just like Prince and his guitar, but….. My cell phone rang, signaling that the gang had arrived.

Cool! Let’s cram in the van and go!

Everyone was so nice that it wasn’t too supremely awkward that I didn’t know these people very well. There were five men, one of whom brought his wife. Most of them I’d spoken with via e-mail or the forums, but actual real-life conversations had been minimal. At one point early in the evening, my comfortzonometer’s alarm went off when I realized that most of them go caching together on a regular basis….but….then I mentally whacked that shy 5-year-old in my head ON her head. Geesh, won’t she ever grow up?

Our drive to the first geocache took about an hour, I think, and we (well, mostly they) filled the vehicle with random chitchat. I got the impression that my particular brand of humor might not be fully appreciated, so I did not snicker in the least when someone posed the question, “Would you like one with a creamy center?” I did share with them, however, the freakish little OCD way in which I like to eat Smarties. One person asked me if any of my friends ever compared me to Monk. Ha! :)

(I know I’ve described this to some of you, but probably not everyone. You see, the orange Smarties taste WAY better than the other colors. So I want to savor them, and I want get a lot of them in my mouth at the same time so that my tastebuds can concentrate on the yummy orangey-ness. I’ll take apart 3-4 rolls, restacking the pieces on a table in front of me, each color forming its own tiny candy tower. Then I’ll eat them, one color-stack at a time, saving the orange ones for last. It makes beautiful, perfect sense to me. And if it makes you feel better–it certainly does me, now that it’s many days later–I didn’t go into quite that much detail with the caching crowd.)

(There I go, off on a tangent again…..)

We had eleven caches ahead of us–135 miles on winding mountain roads. The series, called “Fright Night,” was designed so that you would find a single clue in each of the first ten. If you figured everything out correctly, the clues–based on horror-flick trivia–would provide you with the coordinates to the eleventh “bonus” cache. I would’ve been SOL myself, but with everyone’s brains enlisted, as well as one guy’s cell phone internet access, the group had no prob.

The general premise behind night caching is that reflective items are strategically placed so that, with the aid of a bright flashlight, you are led to the physical cache. It turned out that most of the Fright Night caches were not placed with that concept in mind. A lot of them were just 35mm film containers hidden on or near roadside signs, random trees, or manmade structures.

(By the way, if you’d like a quick primer on geocaching in general, click here.)

Remember many paragraphs back, when I told you I’d never been caching in a larger group? Well, one thing I discovered is that you’d better be superhero fast if you want to be the person who actually finds something first. I was sitting in the very back of the vehicle, so by the time I’d scrambled out and determined which way my GPS receiver was leading me, one of the fast boys had, especially on the easy roadside caches, already found it. Ahhhhh, well….

But, make no mistake, the advantages of the group totally rocked the pants off the disadvantages. Mainly because I wouldn’t have done the night series at all without a few testosterone-types around–which is something that’s not in my geo-world of late.

There were times when the walk to the cache was longer, so I had time to catch up and actually help look. One of the first ones we found (not me….alas, that night it was never me) was in a park in Walhalla. Despite assurances in the online cache description that it was OK to be there, we saw signs which conveyed that the place was closed after dark. So I felt like one of the “bad kids” in high school, breaking-and-entering to do n’er-do-well sorts of stuff. What fun! This cache was hidden at a gazebo. I’m sure it would have been amusing to passers-by to see seven flashlight-wielding adults scrambling all over it…..some on their backs looking under benches, some standing on the benches examining the interior rafters, some kneeling to poke their heads underneath the structure, some on the nearby grass kicking around in the vegetation….. Ha!

(It may not surprise you that breaking-and-entering did not make my neverdone list because–you guessed it–I’ve done it. But you may not have imagined this scenario: It’s about 1am on a crisp, clear, autumn night. A 20-year-old Lisa, dressed in skinnyleg Levi’s and a tight turtleneck underneath a pink button-down oxford shirt, is being walked back to her dorm on the Clemson campus by a similarly-dressed frat-guy type–let’s call him Dumass. I’d met this character through friends about an hour earlier, on the way out of one bar and into another. Well, Dumass decides to take a detour through Death Valley. He talks me into slipping through the gates with him–I am so inebriated I have no idea how that loud clank of a sound helps him get in–but I firmly draw the line at breaking into the VIP box. So he tells me to wait for him, he disappears behind a wall, and is gone FOR-freakin’-EVER. I sober up, gradually, sitting against the fence and all too aware that I am somewhere I should definitely not be. He finally shows up carrying a seat cushion he stole from the box, and–this is the kicker–bleeding profusely from his right hand. MF’ing geesh, man. We continue the walk to my dorm, talk the security guard into allowing Dumass upstairs, I bandage his hand, and he promptly passes out on my floor. After he skulks away the next morning, I never, ever, ever see Dumass again. A good thing, don’t you think?)

(Auuuuugh!! Back to the story at hand. Sorry, sorry, sorry…..)

By midnight, we’d found four caches out of eleven.

After midnight
Hey, if Eric Clapton is rockin’ happily in your head right now, let him sing. Not because the party-lyrics are so appropriate, but because I like his song much better than Sinatra’s.

One of my favorite stops of the night was in a spooky-fun location. There was a short-but-steep drop-off from the road which led quickly into thick woods. There was a creek. And an abandoned house. We searched the area for 45 minutes–the darkness made the find way harder than it would have been in daylight. I kept losing my bearings, not able to tell where I’d searched and where I hadn’t. My fingers and toes were going numb, but I was NOT going to cave and go back to the van for warmth. No way! I’m no wussy girl. At one point I heard a huge crash coming from the abandoned house, and I found out later that one of the men had gone upstairs only to fall through the floor. He came out of it with a nasty bruise, I think, but no one mentioned blood.

This was where I met the aforementioned rodent. Everyone had converged upon the house to search, and someone had disturbed the burly rat-fella in his warm, comfy rat-lair. One of the men urged me over, and I was hesitant to go look, but I’m glad I did. I’d expected one of those dark grey, nasty sewer-rat-looking rats. But when I peeked into the soft pillowish mound of pink insulation near the basement ceiling, I saw a tannish-colored, cute mousey thing with whiskers. Looked like a pretty little Jerry-like house mouse…..only twenty times bigger. He’d retreated toward the back of his nest, sniffing the air as he struggled to see beyond the flashlights shining in his face. Poor thing. I’ll bet he would’ve chewed our fingers off, given half a chance.

This was also where I started to feel a slight nudge in my kidneys….just a tiny one. Barely there at all.

Only once during the night did I allow Lisa to come through. You guys know her. The woman whose sense of humor is a somewhat uncomfortable marriage between a pubescent boy and a horny longshoreman. Or perhaps a threesome among Beavis, Butthead, and Mae West. I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut, I know…..but the setup was so perfect…..so EASY.

We were all standing around a newly-found cache, the finder kneeling near the container, signing the log for all. Everyone’s flashlights combined to give a faint glow to the group. I don’t remember the entire sentence, but one man off to my right uttered this phrase as part of a completely innocent statement:

“…I’m going to touch myself…” (Or was it “hold myself”? I forget. Oh well, same thing.)

Even though I stood there knowing it might not be a good idea to utter one of those typical-Lisa comments, I very deliberately took a breath, parted my lips, and said, “Well, give me a heads-up so I can look the other way.”

Now, that’s actually pretty tame for me. Worse–a LOT worse–has come out of my mouth. But I hadn’t seen any evidence of like minds all evening, so it was a big-risk punch line.

There was silence.

In retrospect, it was probably only a nanosecond or two, but, in the moment, the dead air held a cavernous void….into which I wanted to crawl head-first. But then I heard a few quiet, obligatory chuckles. And then…..there was a weirdly palpable light-bulb moment where suddenly they realized what I said. And that I said it on purpose. It was a relief to hear the hearty laughs I’d been trying for. Whew! No awkward ride home after all.

And of course–of course–I discovered the next day, as I read his geo-profile, that the man who made the “touch” comment is an associate pastor. Of course.

(Since tangents seem to be enmeshed in this post’s prosaic style, here’s another one. This story involves a Lisa-comment and a pastor. At a work party a year or so ago, a group of us were standing around, and one man was wearing a pair of those new-style dress shoes with the longer toes. My observation: “Hey, you know what they say about men with big feet.” I got a laugh, a snicker, a chuckle…..it should’ve died there. Well, a few minutes later someone told me that a coworker’s husband–a Lutheran minister–had been standing right behind me, and had probably heard me. Well, I was mortified! Everyone got their funny-bones tickled at my embarrassment, and one woman, good friends with Mr. Lutheran Minister’s wife, shared the story with Mrs. Lutheran Minister. Who thought it was a riot and, of course, shared the story with Mr. Lutheran Minister. Who, of course, decided to try and make me feel better–or was he just messing with me?–by coming over to tell me a story involving a penis. Well, now. If I knew a stronger word for ‘mortified,’ I would use it here. This was a different brand of minister from the ones I’d known in the past, let me tell you. I was so horror-struck after hearing the word ‘penis’ from him that it was difficult to pay attention to the story he told. Something about losing weight and growing an inch.)

Finally, we arrived at our last cache before the bonus. It was a quick find for the fast boys again, and everyone piled back into the van so that the keepers of the clues could determine the coordinates to the bonus cache. You should’ve heard the groans when they realized we’d have to go ALL the way back to an area which we’d long ago abandoned…..back near the whiskery-cute rat and his cozy pink nest. It was 3am-ish, and the drive, according to the vehicle’s Garmin nav device, would take about an hour. But we’d come too far to give up!

I may have napped a little during this long drive on curvy, mountainous, abandoned roads. The van was a lot quieter, and I’d look up now and then to see a couple heads nodding in front of me. The other female in the gang was out like a light beside me. At one point, we got lost…..the van’s Garmin kept telling the driver to turn down a nonexistent road. There was a lake where the road was supposed to be.

Now. At this point in my blog entry, I am faced with a creative challenge, folks. What is the best way to convey to you the feeling in my kidneys??

I’d had my eyes peeled since midnight-ish for any sort of roadside civilization that wasn’t someone’s home, dark inside with slumbering residents who were privileged with modern toilets mere steps from their warm beds. I’d asked the gang in the front of the van to keep their eyes peeled for a stopping place. No big deal, I said, because at the time I felt like I could hold it for awhile.

“Hey, didn’t we see a Citgo?” someone asked.

“Yeah, but it was closed,” another answered.

“Well…..you could still sit ‘n’ go.”

A great one-liner, don’t you think? Lots of laughter all around. But as the minutes ticked by, and then turned into hours, the pressure in my bladder changed from a slight, polite nudge to a raging, inevitable force of nature threatening to rupture with no more than a microscopic wisp of a disturbance in the air around me. I was certainly getting in my kegels.

The bonus
Finally, yay! We arrived at the bonus cache coordinates! This 4am hike would be the sweet culmination of the evening’s activities.

I got out of the van a good bit slower than before, trying to judge what might happen within my bladder as I became more vertical. Might I be able to make it? Search for the cache, then get back into the van, and wait for the first available gas station on the ride home? I hung near the back of the group as everyone plunged into the darkness, and, not even 100 feet from the vehicle, the driver had to go back to the van to retrieve something he forgot. By this time, my bladder was cursing me as if possessed by 43 demons with tourettes. So I asked him for a kleenex, and, grateful for the napkin in my hand, I set off toward a loose clump of trees as he walked off to catch up with the others.

Yes, I grew up on a farm in the rural South–pastures edged with thick woods in which I played constantly–and I have never peed in the woods. No matter how unlikely that seems, it’s true.

I swung my flashlight to the left. I had an idea of the best mechanics for the situation, thanks to a friend’s vivid, entertaining tale involving a hunting trip, a stomach bug, a tree, and a very scary bear. So I look for a tree. Not too close to the road, but somewhere nearby–I didn’t want to lose sight of the flashlights in the distance. No leaves on the ground. Leaves cause splatter. I found a perfect little place–it didn’t meet my not-too-close-to-the-road requirement, but we hadn’t seen any other vehicles for a couple hours, at least. I ran over, turned the flashlight off, dropped it on the ground in front of me, exposed my girly privates to the cold night air, assumed the position, and……

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

In the middle of the act, I thought: Dammit. What if there’s a slight slope to the ground, and it’s inching toward my feet? What if it reaches my flashlight? Eww, freakin’ ewwwwww.

But I did not care, and wasn’t ABOUT to stop. It felt too good. Besides, that was just paranoia whispering in my ear.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Elation! I smiled a broad, fulfilled smile in the darkness as I quickly gathered myself, grabbed the flashlight, and ran toward the bouncing lights in the distance.

It turned out that a few of the cachers had graciously waited for me, so together we followed the reflective dots into the woods–finally, a real night cache. It was great! I loved the cold, I loved the obstacle-strewn walk, I loved the sparkly dew that looked like tiny diamonds all around me. I longed for my camera, for the chance to capture that image for posterity. Remember the dimwitted pixie-muse from my December 1st post? He showed up during the walk to the bonus cache. Perhaps my empty bladder sang a happy song to my imaginary spirit-friends out there, and the pixie showed up to see if there was any free booze.

Well, that’s about it. We piled in the van for the last time, and hit the road homeward. We rolled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot around 5:30, and I was home a little before 6am…..sleepy, exhausted, and content.

Will you forgive me?
From the bottom of my motormouthed heart, I apologize for the porn-star length of this post. Once in awhile, words come out of me in quite a diarrhea-like fashion.

Oh well. It gave me a valid reason to use the phrase ‘porn-star length.’

‘Neverdone’ series in 2008 — want to help?

I’ve got a fun plan for 2008. Twelve times throughout the year — roughly once a month — I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, then I’ll write about it on magicalmonkey.

You see, 2007 has been a freakin’ awesome year, and I think it’s because I’ve done things I haven’t even thought about in years….things which, in 2006, I wouldn’t have considered feasible. I got back in the gym, and now I feel SO much better — a year ago, I couldn’t put my pants on without back pain. I lost weight, and now my risk has been lowered for a host of diseases and conditions — last Thanksgiving, I saw my own future in family members who struggle with diabetes and orthopedic conditions. And I started this blog, which has become a cool little catalyst for creativity in my life.

So I want to keep it up! I’ve started a list of ideas……please help! Post a comment or e-mail me. Or better yet…..compose a list for yourself, and we’ll help each other do things we’ve never done before. You go zorbing with me, and I’ll attend a Star Trek convention with you. Or vice versa.

Adventures in ’08! Yeah!

run a mile race
run a 5K race
go on a cruise
go to a Mac conference
stay in an ice hotel
plant a garden
see the northern lights
take a wine tasting class
take a road trip with no idea of destination before leaving
be a member of a TV show audience
do Vegas!
write my will
spend a whole day at a spa
go zorbing
attend a scifi convention *
knit something
donate blood
volunteer during a holiday
create my own website (blog templates don’t count)
wax a body part
pierce an unusual body part
tattoo a body part
enter a juried art show
design my own apparel, then make it
script & shoot a short movie
send a postcard to Postsecret
earn a masters degree
go on a lonnnnnnnng hike
enter flight school
ride an elephant
learn to make sushi rolls
visit Stonehenge
throw a dart on a map and travel where it lands
make paper
write a book
visit the Grand Canyon
ride in a hot air balloon
attend a Buddhist service/seminar/retreat

* A friend knew someone who went to one of these. I was intrigued when I heard about the huge signs that were posted at the entrance: “Naked is NOT a costume.”

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