Sunday, March 22, 2009

R's Excellent Adventure - Day 0: Arrival

This is the first in a series of blogs I will write. The subject of these blogs will be my nephew's excellent adventure in the Carolinas.

My nephew is the son of my older sister. I will call him 'R' for the purpose of this public blog. As seems too common nowadays, my sister and my nephew's dad ended up divorced when he was quite young. Thus, he has mostly grown up with his mom (my sister) and his grandmother (my mother) as his primary influences. While his dad has some presence, I can't really know how much. I have always lived a dozen hours drive from my sister (or more), so its not like I get a lot of chance to see him.

Two years ago (after my own divorce), I decided to tow my 1997 Wrangler out to Utah for Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) in Moab. During my planning, I thought it might be cool if R could join me. My sister said yes and she made arrangements with his teachers so he could do the school work he would miss during his spring break. Because of course as luck would have it, his spring break did not correspond to EJS week.

This blog is not about that trip, perhaps one day I will write about it. The point is I drove out to EJS picking him up along the way. We spent five days in Moab. Three days riding trails in the jeep, two days with various other activities (including visiting Arches National Park). We had a great time that first year. I started to teach him how to drive (he was 11).

The next year (2008), I did pretty much the same thing, except I didn't tow my own Jeep out there, I drove my new Honda Fit and rented a Jeep. Both trips were awesome, and last year as we were driving out of Moab, he looked a little down. I asked him what was going on and he said "I don't want to leave". This is not a reflection of his home life, but rather a reflection of the great time we had. In many ways, I felt exactly the same way.

Fast forward to today. As I planned my spring vacation for this year, I decided to forgo EJS (2nd time in 9 years). In considering other activities, I thought a week of adventure would be fun. I mean, I taught him how to drive my jeep when he was 11, he should be able to handle some cool adventure fun!

I called my sister to see how she would feel about him traveling as an unaccompanied minor through Atlanta and on to Greenville/Spartanburg. I told her my ideas, and she, he and I talked (and emailed) about it until we were clear on the plan. This year, it would be during his normal spring break, so he flew into Greenville on Sunday, March 22.

The plan was to make this week into R's Excellent Adventure. Rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater kayaking are the highlights of this excellent adventure. Included in this package was 4 nights of camping in western North Carolina.

Prior to his arrival, I had spent the previous week in intensive preparations. Making lists, buying supplies trying to get organized so it would be relatively painless for us to load up the car and go. As much as possible, I had bags and boxes packed with all of the necessary adventure equipment.

After a delayed flight out of Atlanta, he finally arrived around 5pm. Wow! Had he grown from last year. Interestingly enough, his voice had also changed. We jumped in the car and headed for my house for dinner and mountain biking 101.

I threw my home-made macaroni and cheese in the oven and we went down to get him fitted on the bike. The bike is my 1991 (vintage!) Nishiki Alien. It is in really good shape despite it's age (and mileage). I had made some modifications recently to make it fit him better. A quick adjustment of the seat and we were ready.

The first thing I had to do was teach him to start and stop when you can't sit on the seat and touch the ground. For those that ride, you'll understand this - I was putting the seat in the correct position relative to the crank. He was not used to this so we had to work out the starting and stopping. He picked it up pretty quickly and was soon riding around the yard with no difficulties. His difficulties would arise during the following days.


  1. you are the greatest uncle ever! and yay to R for flying solo! btw 1991 is vintage? that's the same age as Hal was come to think of it, so OK. Toulouse must be really vintage then (1986)!!

  2. In the grand scheme of mountain biking technology, a 1991 hardtail is vintage! Yes, Toulouse is truly vintage.


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