Frequent Showering Dilemmas Frequent Showering Dilemmas

I was away for a while, but I am back now and hope to provide you with many more interesting blog posts! There has been so much happening in this past period, meeting new people, experiencing new things, traveling around… I even got a new job a few months ago, though again it is an office job. Ughh, boooring! Well, at least it pays the bills for now, and I need a steady income, as I am still stuck with that student debt. So nothing new in terms of my old debt, it’s still alive and kicking!

Anyway, anyone who follows this blog knows about my love for the great outdoors. I love physical activity, hiking, riding a bike, you name it! This is how I manage to get through the long and tedious weeks of sitting behind a desk. And this is one of the things that helps me blow off some steam. However, since I got even more physically active recently, I shower quite often, sometimes a few times a day. True, there are certain health concerns with showering too often, for instance, it can disrupt your microbiome (basically your skin’s natural ecosystem), it can dry out your skin and it can be bad for your hair. Yet, for people who engage in a lot of physical activity, the daily shower should not be skipped.

Another issue with showering as much as I do is that the bills at the end of the month are not something to look forward to! So I decided to make some changes. A few friends of mine mentioned gas water heaters can be more cost-effective, so I did my own research online. I learned that while they are more cost-effective in the long-term, in the short-term they require an investment, as they are a bit more expensive than the usual electric ones. So I had a dilemma: should I invest now and possibly manage to save some money in the long run? Or should I simply stick to my electric heater? I decided I would do it. I read reviews on the best gas water heaters written by Greg and chose one.

I am getting it installed this weekend, and I am super excited! Did I make a good choice? I have yet to find out! It can take years to actually feel the benefit ‘in your pocket’, but at least I am trying to save every now and then. In the meantime, off to ride my bike!

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Training Any Way I Can Training Any Way I Can

If I had to evaluate my physical self and rate my abilities on a scale from one to ten, I would be about a five. It is not impressive but a good place to start to build up muscle and strength. I have every intention of working with a bike trainer to gain stamina for a big adventure under the Blue Ridge canopy. I am planning an outing with friends to ride to the South Fork Trail & Loop and I don’t want to poop out anywhere along the way. Imagine holding up the group while I take a breather. Of course, someone else can be the culprit.

Training requires a rigorous schedule if you want to get serious and do it fast. For immediate results, you must ride a stationary bike at least for an hour a day. Then a morning tour on your moving bike is recommended to get used to real circumstances. In the mountains, the road can vary and be rather challenging. It is bad enough for a car not to mention a bike. Most people prefer a Jeep. I intend to go full out and make it with the motion of my legs. Once I gain the ability to attain this goal, I can do it whenever I like.

With some training under my belt, I am more confident that I can make it with some effort if not with ease. I felt that my legs are inches bigger. It may be a fantasy but it feeds my reality. I will know when I am ready to roll. The trail starts on GA 64 not far from home and proceeds to climb to the top of the mountain in the Blue Ridge region. I will go easily for the first four miles until the trail turns off as a single track. Things then will get tricky; I know because I have scoped it out. I appreciate that it is quite well marked. In precisely six miles from the start of the adventure, I will cross the Jacks River before I intersect with GA 126. Another right and I keep pedaling. It will be a full day, if not more.

I know people who have done it so I have good advice. This is why I started with the bike trainer from https://www.onroadandmountain.com/find-best-bike-trainer/. One friend scoffed when I mentioned my desire to tackle the trail. This was indication enough of what I had before me. I have done Beer Creek and Lake Russel Loop so I have enough basic experience. In fact, I am more well-versed than most. I just go at my own pace. With a group, I want to keep up.

While I am raring to go, you will have to wait until a future blog to hear the results. If you follow me on Instagram you will get a plethora of photos. I will describe every nuance of the trip for your benefit. Taking people out in the future is part of my life goal of owning a tourism business. Wish me luck.

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Spent the Weekend Hiking Spent the Weekend Hiking

Sometimes being cooped up in an office all week long makes me a little crazy. When that happens, I usually grab a couple of friends and we go hiking on the weekend. Between being outside, the endorphin rush from physical activity, and the company, I usually feel like myself again by the end of the first day.

The weather was great all week, which made sitting in an office all day a real downer. I called up some friends and made plans to head out to Cooper Creek that weekend. With a plan in place, the rest of the work week was much more bearable.

Once Friday rolled around, I pretty much flew out of work. Everyone met up at my place because I’ve got the biggest trunk and was going to be doing the driving. We got to Cooper Creek and lucked out—we were able to get two sites next to each other, although we lost out on the creek side sites. The rest of the day was spent putting up tents, making ourselves a meal, and turning in early so we’d be ready for the next day.

Saturday was great. The weather was nice from the moment we got up. My buddy Kirk made everyone breakfast and then we headed onto the Yellow Mountain Trail. It’s a good trail – the incline is not enough to wipe you out, but enough that it felt like hiking and not walking through the woods. There are some spurs that offshoot here. While I was game to go through Mill Shoals, but nobody else wanted to. We ended up taking just the roughly 3 ½ mile loop of the Yellow Mountain Trail.

Once we finished the hike, we went back to the campsites. Joe decided to sack out and take a nap, but the rest of us had some lunch and chatted with some other campers. We talked about the AT (Appalachian Trail, for those curious) and how we’ve all hiked bits of it but never enough.

After we woke up Princess Joe, we went for a much easier trek on the Cooper Creek Trail. That one is way shorter, only about 1.6 miles. It’s also pretty easy going, perfect for an afternoon when all you want is to be under the canopy of trees and burn off some lunch. We got back from that trail and just hung around for a while. The original plan was to actually go out and get dinner but based on how we all smelled at that point, we decided not to bother.

The next morning came earlier than expected for those of us who decided to stay up and chat with some friendly girls who had passed by. Ray, who is married and did the responsible thing by turning in early, took a lot of joy in getting the rest of us moving so that we could pack up and get home for some showers and civilization.

It was a great weekend, and I’m going to be totally bummed about sitting at a desk come tomorrow. Tonight, though, I am looking forward to sleeping in an actual bed!

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Heading to the Beach Heading to the Beach

Like any state, we dwell in natural beauty in most parts. Georgia is known for scenic mountains, but there are times when you want something else. We also have gorgeous beaches. A few hours and you are there in the spot of your choice. Tourists love the quaint inns and resort hotels of Savannah. Charleston and Jacksonville are on either side. After you explore the historic areas, you can lounge on the sand and watch the rhythm of the waves. When the sky is clear and the sun is beaming down, you are in a picturesque heaven. I don’t go nearly often enough. When some friends asked me to tag along, I didn’t hesitate.

The weather was perfect. We wore our swimsuits under loose shorts so we could be ready in minutes.  We brought out our crazy tees for the day. This was to be a time of fun and frolic.  The cold beer was icing in the cooler in the back of the van. Folded beach chairs were stacked neatly and ready to deploy. Someone went to the trouble of bringing a large striped umbrella for those with sensitive skin or tired of the sun. More important was the Bluetooth speaker so we can blast our music and entertain those all around. Food and water are essential and thick sandwiches are the order of the day at the shore. My friend’s wife gave him a cute picnic hamper lined in a red and white checked cloth. Everything else we need is toted in a backpack. Another friend has a waterproof colorful one, not the bland type you take camping.

If you ask me what else to bring on a beach day trip, the list is short. Just Beach Things, I always say. I always include cheap sunglasses. They can get lost in the sand when you go in the water and ride the waves. If your eyes can’t handle the salt water, just wear some goggles like you do in a chlorinated swimming pool. Then, of course, you must have a good terry beach towel, preferably decorated with colorful sea life. You can find yours after you have been swimming out to sea. If you get a bit tired on the way back, you can stumble to it in seconds and plop yourself down. Last but not least on my beach list is suntan lotion oil, whatever is left over from the last trip. If you forget this key item, you are sure to burn and peel.

Some people read on the beach and others swim the whole time. I like to take walks and talk to other strollers. I pick up rare finds like special seashells and occasionally an interesting rock or piece of drift wood. It all goes in the backpack at the end of the day. We empty the ice from the cooler, fold up the chairs and umbrella, shake the sand from the towels and head home.

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Stranded! Stranded!

Have you ever been off-roading? I hadn’t until recently. Some friends do it regularly and attest to the fun outdoors. They talk about it all the time and their enthusiasm has been catching. It certainly got me. They tout the many benefits: it is exciting, dynamic, challenging, and daring. There is a bit of danger involved that gets the adrenalin going. Not everyone likes to put their life in peril, but I agree with them that this sport is be a good way to spend more time outside. I have been trying to take more breaks and enjoy the fresh air and while I usually go hiking or biking, it would do me infinite good to have a change of scene. I mean this literally as my friends frequent different places than I am accustomed to. I love the idea of exploring new regions and discovering their secrets. Scenic beauty is all around the small town of Blue Ride in central Georgia. I can prove it with my great Instagram photos. We aren’t a huge tourist center but the area does have its appeal. Remember, in the US wonderful vistas are all around.

People like my friends get a lot of flak for roughing up nature, but frankly they are out in the wilds where the conditions are already pretty basic. Grazing animals probably do more harm. You can have off-roading competitions or just do it for amusement and social purposes. Guys who go together are known to bond. When I was party to the entertainment, it stopped suddenly when someone got a flat. That will literally stop you in your tracks. We had to wait for his father to come with an air compressor and patch kit. At first we felt stranded and beyond help because our SUVs didn’t have spares. But then we started looking online and realised that we could add a small 12 volt air compressor, like these: https://www.compressorforce.com/the-best-12v-air-compressor-reviews/. Of course, we prevailed, but I would have preferred to solve our dilemma on our own. It is a bit humiliating to have to call dad.

Off-roading also has an enormous attraction for me. The vehicles are a kick and everyone has a rip roaring good time. It is all about being fast and free and letting your hair down to blow in the wind. Why on earth did I wait so long? Of course, I just got the invitation. The “sport” is simple to describe. It involves driving your jeep or other utility vehicle on unpaved roads, or possibly tracks, that are still natural terrain. There may be sand, rocks, gravel, a riverbed, sand or wild grass or fields of flowers to traverse. What you drive will take these surfaces in different ways so many devotees like to fix up or customize their cars, such as installing a roll bar. Unmodified ones have a bit more trouble navigating the land. Also, the driver’s experience makes a huge difference. For maximum safety, it is important to have some mileage behind you.

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Zip-Lining Down a Mountain Zip-Lining Down a Mountain

Zip lining is fun for those of us who aren’t afraid of heights! I totally recommend it as an activity for just about anybody. Once you get used to the mechanics of it, it is actually pretty easy. I went recently with a friend of mine and man did we have a good time!

If you’ve never been, here’s what to expect: go somewhere that has good reviews on Yelp or other site, this way you are more likely to have a good experience. Also, signing a waiver is pretty standard procedure, so don’t be surprised by that. This waiver might be on their website or they might email it to you prior to you coming so that you will know if you have any preexisting conditions that might make zip-lining a bad choice (those who are pregnant shouldn’t go zip-lining, and those with heart conditions, bad knees, or backs might want to look into something else).

You’ll get to the location and one of the first things that should happen is a safety brief. Your team will spend time explaining what all the gear is, how it protects you, and how to work it. Now is NOT the time to lie about your weight. The carabiners, harness, and the lines themselves are rated for certain weights. You lie and equipment gets damaged or someone gets seriously injured. Or dies. So be honest about how much you weigh.

They should do a practice run on a small line near the ground so you can get the feel for how your gear fits and how to make yourself stop without injuring yourself. If you have questions, now is the time to ask them so you can practice anything you are concerned about while still on the ground. If you are uncomfortable here, definitely STOP and tell somebody. Because the next step is going up the mountain/hill/course to start the fun. If you’re already uncomfortable, I promise it will only get worse when you’re adding adrenaline and significant heights to the equation.

After ground school, you’ll find yourself going up – sometimes you’re driven up, and sometimes a hike is part of the experience. Depends on the company and the course. After you head up, the instructors will run through everything one more time, explain exactly what you’re doing, and then usually at least one instructor will go down the line to the opposite platform. This is to help “catch” guests as they come through. Then you’re off and zipping!

The one thing that surprised me the first time is that zip-lines can be loud. It’s a weird hum that I’d never heard before. At first, I was taken by surprise but then my brain started equating it with fun, so I got excited about it. The place I went does several different tours: one at night where they give everyone glowsticks (sounds fun, doesn’t it?) and another in the fall so that you can see the changing leaves and gorgeous scenery, and then in summer when you can see lots of wildlife.

I’m definitely going back!

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A Date on Horseback A Date on Horseback

I was talking to a girl that I was trying to impress and she mentioned that she likes horses. So, me, being the charming guy that I am, offered to take her horseback riding. It might be hard to believe from reading this blog but I can actually be pretty charming when I want to be. At the time, I didn’t even know if there was a place around here that you could ride horses. But, since I do a lot of other activities (hiking, tubing, camping, stuff like that), I knew that I had two things on my side: the Blue Ridge area is both scenic and full of trails. I figured there had to be something.

After a quick online search, I was able to locate a horse trail place nearby. I talked to the owner and arranged everything. He promised that there were a couple of easygoing and experienced horses that would provide a good ride for two complete novices like us. That was reassuring. The last thing I wanted was to struggle and look like an idiot in front of this girl. That was kind of the opposite of where I wanted to go with this! I texted her and told her the good news and she replied back right away about how excited she was, which I took as a good sign.

I picked her up and she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun we were going to have. Her energy was both appealing and contagious. I really started to get into it, too. To be honest, I am always up for doing something outdoors, especially when it is a new experience.

We arrived at the barn and owners brought us out to the stalls so we could meet our horses. They matched my date up with a beautiful brown horse whose name was Honey. They offered me a horse – a Tennessee Walker horse, supposedly known for its “smooth gait”. That sounded more like a brand of scotch than a horse! I ended up choosing my own horse, another brown one named Teaspoon.

They showed us how to get up on the horses and a few basic commands with the reigns, then led us off on a beginner’s trail. I’ve heard that riding horses is good exercise but I never understood why, it always felt to me like I’d just be sitting there and the horse would be the one getting the workout. I learned my lesson today! I have sore muscles in places I didn’t know I could be sore. But I have to say, it was really fun. The horses were great, the trail had a lot to see, and it was a perspective I don’t get often (being on horseback has its advantages). When we got back to the barn, we were able to give the horses a little treat as a thank you for the ride. I thought my date was going to die from sheer happiness.

Not only am I going to see her again, I might even try horseback riding again. It could be fun to get one of them out on the trail and see how fast they can go!

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My Solution for Hot Days My Solution for Hot Days

I love summer time. However, sometimes it gets pretty darn hot here in Blue Ridge. There are days in July where I would rather die than do just about anything. Except tubing. Tubing is probably my favorite summer activity.

If you’ve never been, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Tubing combines the best thing about swimming – the cool water – with the beauty of doing absolutely nothing. And, lucky for me, the Toccoa River is close enough by that I can make an afternoon out of it. When you go tubing, you drive to the river, they usually drive you up river a distance, then give you a tube and a life jacket, and you get in the water. Then you slowly go along with the current back to where you started.

That’s it. Nothing to it.

Some places even allow you to buy a separate tube for your cooler and then you can have drinks (carbonated, alcoholic, or otherwise) float down the river along with you. Not every place allows coolers, and many don’t allow alcohol (because open water and drinking can often lead to trouble) so check before you go. You probably don’t need anything to help you enjoy the experience. Usually the scenery and the lazy floating is enough to calm you down and provide a good time without any additional help from beverages.

But no matter where you go, you get to sit in a tube and travel down a nice cool river at a comfortable pace, just relaxing and spending time with friends or family. The place I like to go has a section of river about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the current. It’s so relaxing that I have taken a nap a time or two!

Tubing is great because even smaller kids can do it. You’re not usually going down any kind of rapids or anything, it is more of a slow drift, so as long as they are a certain age or weight (depending on the place), you’re set. Just buckle them into a lifejacket, slap them into an inner tube, give it a push into the river and they’re off.

There are places that have rocks or other obstacles, and there are other places that can give you more of a rafting experience – and those are fun, too. I really do enjoy taking a day with a few friends and hitting the rapids every once in a while. However, I prefer to do that sort of thing on days that aren’t blisteringly hot – I am especially not going to paddle and exert myself on a day that is too hot.

Man, I can’t think of anything better to do with a nice day on the weekend. Or even a nice day during the week. Sorry, boss, cough cough, I’m sick, not coming in today. Actually, if my boss ever reads this, sir – I’ve never actually called in sick just to go tubing. That I can remember off the top of my head, anyway.

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Make Your Next Vacation an Eco-vacation Make Your Next Vacation an Eco-vacation

Are you one of those people who see vacations as an excuse to do things that are different than what you do in their real lives? It is the perfect way to take a break from your usual routine. Isn’t that what a vacation is all about?

Personally, I think the best kind of vacation is the kind where you can take away a great experience. I have found that opportunity mostly through ecotourism, something you may not have heard of.

Ecotourism is a great concept. First of all, it helps the communities and environment where the tourism takes place. In other words, if you’re going to visit a lake, all the money you put into your lodging, dining, etc, goes into the community surrounding the lake and for the upkeep of the lake. This works in not only large areas of the US, but even small villages in remote locations around the globe.

People want to feel connected to each other and to the world they live in. Ecotourism fills this need perfectly. Again, we’ll work with the lake example. When you go to the lake, you’ll find out more about the lake and its inhabitants, maybe through a guided boat tour or at a tourism center.

Sure, you could go on vacation to see a boring museum, spend a few days at the beach not really learning anything, or trek to an amusement park packed with a million other people all determined to have the most fun possible for all that money they spent. And those kinds of trips might be right up your alley, but I would much prefer to interact with locals and appreciate the surrounding environment than just stay at a posh hotel or spend hours of my time waiting in line for rides that last 30 seconds.

I would way rather go ziplining through forests or hiking to waterfalls, or maybe kayaking to a remote area to see some spectacular wildlife. Something a little more exciting than the same kind of vacation everyone else is doing. That’s why I really want to get into the field of ecotourism – I want to give people an experience they could not have gotten any other way, with education and appreciation of our environment at the forfront of their vacation.

Two great things about ecotourism: visiting somewhere as an ecotourist can really put people in touch with another place and its people. You learn more about the culture and the life other people lead when you are given the opportunity to experience it for yourself.  Also, many of these places are very green and low-impact. They take advantage of a typically pristine natural environment without exploiting that environment. The activities, lodging, and tourism promotion in the area are geared toward low-impact and sustainable models. And because these are good practices, you are showcasing them in a positive and inspiring light for visitors to appreciate and model after they leave.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

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