Sunday, February 17, 2019

2.5 Miles

There were a couple of choices: red or yellow; left or right.

We went with yellow and took a left.

That was the trail that was supposed to be 2.5 miles. We didn't know how strenuous the hike would be or what we would run into, but 2.5 miles was completely doable. How bad could it be, right?

Fort Pillow State Park is about 40 miles north of my front door, up the Mississippi River. It was built in 1861, a fort on a bluff overlooking the river, making it ideal for the Confederates to do their thing and try to hold off Union soldiers. That didn't work well for the Confederates at first, but they got their fort back at the Battle of Fort Pillow, which is highly controversial in and of itself due to the number of African American soldiers killed.

Today, all that history was the backdrop of my second monthly road trip of 2019. My ride or die partner Krista and I planned to do some hiking, some photography, and a little birding (I can't help myself).

The trail started out easy enough. Even after a morning of pretty heavy rain, it wasn't too muddy. We chatted about life, goals, the soggy ground and how slow we were moving. No big deal though. We weren't in a hurry, just taking in the history, the nature and the calming quiet.

As relaxing as it was, the hike turned into a serious calorie burn when we reached the first hill. That slope was no joke as we crept upward, arms out for balance. Dead leaves covering the ground were saturated from the morning rain, offering no traction as they squished under our feet. We took some deep breaths, tried to find solid ground and pushed on.

Then the mud. We could see where hikers before us had put a foot down only to have it slide out from under them. We were no exception to mother nature's sloppy sense of humor. More than once, one or both of us misjudged the stability of the dirt and detritus and almost went flying.

It's a wonder neither of us ended up on our behinds.

WHY did we choose the yellow trail??

We caught our breath and kept walking. The trail dried out in some spots, and got soggier in others. And of course, there were more hills. We followed the yellow blazes and kept going left, certain we were walking in a giant circle back to the trailhead.

About 1.25 miles along, cell service kicked back in, so we checked our progress. The trail map loaded and reality became clear: the yellow trail was not 2.5 miles, but more than five, winding from the trailhead around the entire park and back to start.

Face palm. How? Hadn't the sign read 2.5?  It must have been a marker for the halfway point.

And so came another decision: hike the entire trail, or head back the way we came.

In the end, we turned around. We were not speedy and there was no way to know what was ahead or whether we would make it to the end by dark. Let me tell you, the trip back didn't take nearly as long as the hike out. Knowing what to expect made things a lot easier.

Despite the damp, chilly air, the soggy ground, and what seemed like "uphill both ways", I loved every second of it! We were surrounded by serenity and beautiful scenery, chirping birds, and at times, nothing but the sound of our feet on the muddy, mossy, rocky paths.

Trail takeaways:

  • I can't wait to hike the entire 5+ miles when the weather gets warmer (and greener).
  • I climbed up many hills today and not one of them defeated me. I was strong enough from start to finish, with plenty left in the tank for more!
  • I trusted my feet to carry me where I wanted to go, and they did not protest. No pain!  

That said, I'm going to hurt tomorrow.

Krista and the crazy tree

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Life In Sweatpants

Allow me to get weird about the gym for a minute.

I love my gym! I mean, I really love it! Planet Fitness in Midtown Memphis is where it's at! My life in jeans in 2019 is turning into a life sweatpants (or leggings, or capris) and I'm not mad about it!

I know there are plenty of people who feel very strongly about Planet Fitness and its "no judgment" policy. I've read the reviews from those who find it to be less of a real gym because PF doesn't offer personal trainers and frowns upon patrons it calls lunks (those who grunt loudly and slam weights).  There are also detractors who are put off by the monthly price, arguing it's too cheap! I'm not sure why you would be mad about $10-$20 per month. I'm certainly not.

Whatever you think, here's what I know. For my money, it's one of the best places I've ever worked out. I feel comfortable, the staff are all helpful, and every person I've ever met there has been super friendly.

And it's that "no judgment" thing that I'm buying into. Every time I walk in, I feel it. I think, "I'm here for me. No one else. Nobody has to walk in my shoes, live my life and answer for my choices. This is the time that I spend taking care of me."

And I apply that same logic to every single person in the building, from the woman burning up the elliptical in front of me, to the dudes lifting weights across the room. We're all there for ourselves, trying to do and be better. I secretly support them in my head.

I like to think they're sending out that same vibe in my direction. Maybe they noticed my clothes are a little looser. Maybe they see I'm not huffing and puffing as much as I increase the speed on my treadmill. And maybe they'll quietly cheer me on when tomorrow I lift heavier weights than I did last week.

A few weeks ago I saw a woman in the ladies locker room making eyes at herself in the mirror. She turned around and gave herself an approving over-the-shoulder look and snapped a picture with her cell phone.  She saw me watching and started to laugh. I giggled along with her. I wanted her to know I might not be checking myself out in public, but I don't care if she does.

She blushed at being caught and regaled me with the story of her journey. The first words out of her mouth, "I'm sorry, but I've lost 100 pounds!"

"That's fantastic!" I said, "You are beautiful!"

She seemed genuinely thrilled to hear the compliment and swelled with pride for her success and what I can only imagine was a hard-fought victory.  It was so sweet and so inspiring.

She did it! And I know I can do it, too.

And true to my resolutions this year, I visited two different Planet Fitness locations on my first out-of-town trip of the year.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second Lining

It was a party in the street tonight, New Orleans style. Outside The Second Line restaurant in Midtown Memphis, dozens of Saints fans and I witnessed a jazz funeral and second line for the 2018 season that ended with the non-call heard 'round the world.

Chants of Who Dat and "When The Saints Go Marching In" filled the air in the frenzied yet restorative power of the traditional Crescent City eulogy.

As a casket made its way down the aisle, we booed the refs who stole from us. We cheered memories of past Saints who brought us where we are today, and we gave thanks to Drew Brees for returning for another season with the black and gold.

Nothing brings out the best in a Saints fan like cocktails and commiseration.  That's because, arguably, nobody knows the ecstasy of victory or the agony of defeat quite like the men and women who don the black and gold every fall and put just as much of their hearts on the line as the Boys. Talk of the Super Bowl XLIV victory brings out euphoric nostalgia. Equally as emotional, heads are bowed and cups ever so slightly raised in reverence to the lean years of brown paper bags and losing seasons.

I watched that fateful game against the Los Angeles Rams with my sister-in-law at her home just north of New Orleans. We were struck speechless watching live, then replay after replay, footage of Rams Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slam into Saints Tommylee Lewis. A blatant pass interference that played out in front of the referees, an entire Superdome of fans, and millions more across the country.  Each slow-motion recap a gut-punch.

And as the seconds ticked by with no flag thrown, it became clear that Robey-Coleman was going to get away with murder. In the end, the Rams punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. Fruit of the poisonous tree.

The missed call was so egregious, league officials called Coach Sean Payton after the game and admitted that there should have been two penalties on the play.

After a week of trash talking the refs, the Rams, the league and anyone who might even remotely have a dog in that hunt, the outcome of the showdown remains the same: the Saints were robbed and the Rams players involved in the incident have proven themselves to be classless, perhaps a more heinous offense to some Saints fans than the actual blown call.

So tonight, we buried the season here in Memphis the only way that could bring any measure of closure. We cheered for the Boys, cursed those who wronged us, and took a walk down the street to the melodies of a brass band.

And because even a funeral is a party in New Orleans, there were smiles and selfies with old friends.

Maybe some day, we'll bow our heads and raise our cups ever so slightly in memory of this heartbreak. Maybe.

Bless you, Boys.