Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Archive for 2006

Another Friday morning…

11th December 2006

(catching up again, from this past Friday morning…)  We’re settled in our warm house, safe from the "extreme cold" outside – currently 17 degrees, with a windchill of 6 degrees!  Whew!  I know for most of you that isn’t bad, but it’s chilly, specially for Brian riding to work. 

Yesterday was a nice relaxing day while Analise was at Mother’s Day Out.  (By the way, she’s stayed dry the whole time she was at school both Tuesday and Thursday.  Woohoo!)  Josiah came with me to help pack Christmas stockings for children at the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home with the women of my missions group.  It is so fun to pack each stocking full of toys, candy and fun things for these kids.  I love that aspect of the Christmas season (we try to do it all year round, but it’s especially prevalent with others at Christmas).  There are so many opportunities to reach out and give.  It feels so good!  We put together our traditional Operation Christmas Child boxes for Analise and Josiah to send to kids their age through Samaritan’s Purse.  Analise gets to bring a gift for needs posted on an Angel Tree at her school.  Her Wednesday night Mission Friend’s group helped pack the stockings this past Wednesday, and next week they’re having a birthday party for Jesus.  They get to bring baby gifts for a crisis pregnancy center.  I really hope we can raise our children with an attitude of excitement towards opportunities to give, both of their things, money, time and themselves.  

While Analise was at school, Josiah took a good long nap and I made homemade blackberry muffins.  MMMmmm.  This is the BEST muffin recipe (hopefully, I’ll post it soon, with all the other recipes I’ve promised myself)!  The blackberries were frozen from the Black and Blue festival we went to when Josiah was just a week old.  He’ll be 6 months tomorrow.  Crazy how time flies!  

Funny note… We keep noticing that our clock is off in the mornings.  The other morning, it said 5:24 from about 4am on.   I assume Brian is hitting buttons when he’s snoozing/resetting the alarm to sleep a little extra.  This morning, though, the clock is nearly half an hour fast.  Hmm.  I think in his asleep-state, he’s resetting the time instead of the alarm!  Poor guy.  He’s working so hard getting caught up on grading, making up tests, designing a website and attending student stuff.  He was gone Monday, Wednesday and last night for work stuff.  We’ll all breath a sigh of relieve when Dec. 16th rolls around the sememster is wrapped up. 

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(catching up) Good Friday morning!

11th December 2006

(Haha… I started this LAST Friday – more than a week ago!  I just sat down to write a quick blog, and thought maybe I’d better finish this and post it!  It’s like a trip back in time:))

Whew – it’s just been a busy week (*the week after Thankstiving), and I’m finally getting the time to pull a blog together.  Nothing too exciting happening.  I’ve been doing a lot of my Christmas shopping online, and I took advantage of a few of the sales on Thanksgiving weekend (Friday and Saturday evenings to avoid the craziness).  That makes us just about done with our Christmas shopping, which is a lovely relief.  On the other hand, I’ve got family pictures that need to be put in the mail with Christmas cards.  And of course, I have high intentions to do a Christmas letter (probably largely electronic so I can link to interesting blog highlights).  I REALLY need to do this since my last one (or 2??) didn’t really make it out.  Or maybe some of them did, I can’t remember!  The point is, I need to "reach out and touch" some of these people that might think I’ve taken them out of my address book, even though they keep sending me cards!  The last project is a little thing Brian and I started on, and it would be so fun to get it done in time for christmas, but we’ll have to see about that.  

Speaking of Brian… he’s doing really well.  For a couple weeks, he was feeling like his legs were really tired, probably from the Ironman.  And he had all kinds of mysterious aches and pains.  But I think he’s finally recovered.  He’s pretty close to logging 10,000 miles on his bike for the year.  I’m sure he’ll post a picture of his bike computer after it turns over into 5 digits:)

Thanksgiving weekend was very relaxing for us.  We just spent some down time as a family around the house.  We all needed it after the travel of the past few weeks.  I did a little cooking!  Thanksgiving dinner didn’t create enough leftovers for me, so I cooked my own turkey breast in the slow cooker.  I’ve never done that before, but it worked WONDERFULLY!  Put it in the am -before church – and come to a lovely, turkey-scented home and whip up a nice dinner with some Stove-top stuffing, instant mashed potatoes and leftover Cheesy Green Bean Casserole (my new favorite holiday casserole). It was juicy, and the meat fell off the bone, leaving us with leftovers for the whole week.  

So with the leftovers, I made my favorite turkey leftover meal, Turkey Noodle Casserole – excellent, as usual – on Tuesday night and Turkey Chili – still searching for the right recipe, this wasn’t quite it – on Friday night.  I’ll post the Turkey Noodle Casserole recipe soon – they’re in progress on my desktop!

…while Analise was playing with her little Pooh and friends: "I know, sweet girl, you have to go to sleep."  (This the day after she’d taken an hour to fall asleep and I’d been in there quieting her down several times, saying exactly that.)

…after Analise has gotten back into the car after Mother’s Day Out, seeing Josiah in his car seat, "He’s such a handsome boy!"

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Tales of a Christmas Tree

10th December 2006

Setting up the tree was quite a memorable experience.  In our 3 years of marriage, we’ve only ever used a little 3-foot fiber optic tree that we got in California.  It was simple and beautiful, easy to put up, take down and small enough to put on a table out of reach of a toddler.  Easy was the best part, though, since I’ve been pregnant 2 of 3 Christmases!  This year I was ready for a full-sized tree.  Having grown up with live trees – which we’d cut ourselves as a family, I know the pros and cons of that option.  But here in Alabama, there aren’t too many places to cut your own.  And once again, I think with 2 little ones, "easy" is still something we’re aiming for!  We inherited an artifical tree from Brian’s grandma that was in storage in our shed, so that sounded like the perfect option.  No keeping the water filled, no struggling to get it straight because the bottom wasn’t cut level, no needles falling off (my favorite!), and no allergies flaring from dried pine needles.  I was excited about having a pretty tree with much less work.  

Brian found our tree out in our shed, with a whole chewed in the bottom of the box.  Looked like a mouse had made a little nest amongst the branches.  It was vaguely reminiscent of one of my favorite books as a child, The Christmas Mouse.  We’re going to have to find that one so Analise can enjoy it.  Anyway, the tree needed to be shaken out which Brian did outside, but fake pine needles, pieces of cardboard and a mouse dropping our two still ended up on the floor.  *sigh*  It took surprisingly longer for Brian to put it together than I expected (I think I hadn’t imagined that you’d have to assemble it branch-by-branch), and then I had to "fluff" all the branches out so it didn’t look like it had been in storage all year.  Of course, the dusty tree riled up my allergies… *sigh* 

We had my pretty homemade-by-my-mom tree skirt all laid out and the tree all fluffed when his parents came to visit the next night.  The tree was NOT up to standards of Brian’s dad (although we thought it was fine).  He thought it was unstable – and crooked, in his eyes, and they proceeded to spend more than an hour trying to remedy the situation, essentially un-fluffing and causing the tree to drop a bunch more fake pine pieces.  *sigh*  Finally, the next day (day 3 of the Christmas Tree Tale) his dad brought over a different tree stand that worked much better.  Then I had to re-fluff, put on the lights, fluff again, sweep again, arrange the skirt, and FINALLY it was ready.  WHEW!  I honestly think a live tree is probably easier, at least compared to our experience this year!  You can see the pictures of our fun evening of tree-trimming here.  We’re enjoying it, so it’s all the hassle has been worth it. 

Oh yeah – my Dad called later that week and to tell me he’d decided to wait to set up the Christmas tree at their house until we got there.!  We can compare our adventure to the snowy-cut-down-your-own-live-tree experience up North. 

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I can’t seem to finish anything!

9th December 2006

There are 2 half-written blogs saved in text files on my desktop.  I’m too ambitious… they’re full of little notes of stories and recipes I wanted to expand on, and maybe even include pictures.  But I can’t seem to get back to them to finish.  Just like the 2 open emails that I started to motivate myself to let these poor people know I hadn’t ignored their letters…  And now here I am to try to get something posted, and Josiah just woke up.  So much for my quiet evening time.  Gotta run!    But I’m gonna post this anyway just so there’s SOMETHING new here…        

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Date night!

6th December 2006

Brian and I stole away for a little date night last night.  It was sweet!  We splurged with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, always one of our favorites.  Brian had a new dish called Bang-Bang Thai Chicken and Shrimp.  He said it was one of the best things he’s ever tasted!  I had my usual – Shrimp and Bacon Club Sandwich.  I’ve had that every time I’ve ever eaten there… it’s so tasty.  Of course, we enjoyed some cheesecake.  Brian had White Chocolate Caramel Latte and I had Tiramisu Cheesecake.  Lovely.  I’m looking forward to enjoying lunch of my leftover sandwich:)

Analise has a cold that’s been dragging on, so she’s being a bit of a whiner today.  I was going to post earlier this week about how we’re doing SO well with potty-training.  We were!  She’d been staying dry at school, and we even had one completely dry day, including waking up dry.  Sunday was rough because we were at Sunday School and of course she was having too much fun to remember to tell someone she needed to go to the bathroom.  Today, though, I’m not sure what the problem is.  She’s had 2 accidents so far already.  Maybe she’s not feeling well?  I think we’re still doing pretty darn well, and I’m SO pleased to not be changing diapers! 

Josiah’s got some serious sleep issues going on.  He fights sleeping during the day, and it’s so hard to get him to nap.  Today has been a little better as he took a long solid nap in his swing after some fussing.  At night, it’s really hard to get him to sleep, but then its hit-or-miss as to whether he’ll sleep for 4 hours or not.  He’s a very restless sleeper.  And the silly pacifier… it falls out while he’s sleeping and then he half-wakes and wants it.  Arg.  I’m still anti-pacifier…

I’ve got a bit of a sore throat, and it was one of those days that I woke up wanting to call in sick.  I couldn’t convince Brian to stay home and take care of the kids for me.  He knows life is much easier at his office… just college kids to deal with.

Enough from me… hopefully, I’ll be back later to post something I started writing this past weekend!     

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“Dangerous Cold!”

4th December 2006

That’s what the weatherman said it is this morning.  21 degrees.  Hmph.  I bet my readers from the Great North are falling off their chairs laughing.  To be truthful, he was saying that in reference to the wind chill, which makes it feel about 16 degrees.  Whew… almost unbearable. 

Brian bundled up for his ride to work.  Thankfully, we call him "Nanook of the North" when we’re up there, so I’m not worried about him.

Happy Monday!     

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Starting our Tree-Trimming Tradition…

1st December 2006

So tonight we aimed to start our family tradition of tree-trimming. I’m trying to develop Advent/Christmas traditions, and since today is the first day of December, considered by some to be the first day of Advent, I thought it would be a great night to have a nice family meal (turkey chili and homemade cornbread) and decorate the tree. Then maybe we’d watch a nice Christmas film. Luckily for us, The Polar Express is on TV tonight, so that looked like the perfect end to the evening.

Ah, the best of intentions. This will be a fun one to remember:) Decorating a tree with Analise was quite an experience. I think discovering the ornaments in the box was more exciting than actually putting them on the tree. I’d pull one out of the tissue paper, and she’d be grabbing it out of my hand as I put a hook on it.  She wouldn’t even make it to the tree, let alone hang the ornament, before she was back for another one.  If she made it to the tree, she’d sometimes drop it on a branch – where it tumbled to the floor – and hurry back to me, all excited to see what ornament was next.  She didn’t appreciate the fragility of all the pretty delicate
ornaments. She didn’t seem to hear me telling her about how this one was special to me because I made it when I was 2 years old, or about how  I made that one in 4th grade.
Here’s an excerpt from the evening:

Kristine: Analise, do you want to hang this pretty ball on the tree? Be careful, it’s very special.
Analise: Oh pretty!
Kristine: It’s from the year I was born, 1976!
Analise: Ooo! It’s a ball! Can I throw it?
(Yes, we caught her before she tested its bouncability, thankfully.)

And when she put them on the tree – and she did about 60% of the ornaments in the end – they were all on the same 5-6 lowest branches. Above: This was pretty much all that was on the tree after about 15 minutes. Notice how many ornaments are on each branch!  It’s too funny. I was intending to re-distribute, but it’s so fun to look at, I don’t think I will.

Intently hanging… these two bears were supposed to be kissing, but it appears Analise would have none of that.

We wrapped up the tree-trimming by bringing out the little Advent tree. It’s about a foot tall, and it has a little drawer with a tiny ornament for each day leading up to Christmas. So Analise got to open 1 drawer. There were tears, of course, because she wanted to open more than one. Even reminding her that she could open another drawer tomorrow didn’t help. *sigh* Learning the "waiting" part of Christmas is hard. But it’s what Advent is all about!

Anyway, those tears woke grumpy Josiah up, so he joined us in my arms for part of The Polar Express. We’ve never watched this movie before. It’s interesting. The animation is technically very cool, but something about it is just weird. Brian said he’d heard mixed reviews of the movie, so he asked me to look them up and we found this one, that pretty much summed up why it felt weird.
A few excerpts that struck us as funny – but true…

This season’s biggest holiday extravaganza,
"The Polar Express," should be subtitled "The Night of the Living
Dead." The characters are that frightening…
Claus gets his very own category of creepy. In an overzealous effort to
make Saint Nick look like he has some kind of benevolent inner glow,
the filmmakers make him look downright radioactive. It’s enough to make
you want to skip the milk and cookies and don rubber gloves and
protective clothing on Christmas Eve.
It’s a shame. "The Polar
Express" wants to be an uplifting holiday film, but it tries too hard
to make its point. Moreover, the technology just hasn’t caught up to
the lofty ambitions of the hundreds of talented people behind this
film. And when it comes to the characters within, the film looks like a
remake of "The Children of the Corn."

Please forgive me if this is one of your favorites!  Analise enjoyed it.  Brian also thinks the little girl is supposed to be a little Condoleeza Rice. Anyone else have strong feelings about The Polar Express? I think next year we’ll have another movie ready for our tree-trimming night.

I love the Advent season. Having grown up the Lutheran church, each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas is celebrated as preparing for the extraordinary event of Christmas. I feel kind of like this tradition is lost in most evangelical churches.  For our family, I really want to make this a season of remembering and anticipating Christ’s birth. So we’ll be celebrating each Sunday of Advent by reading a part of the Christmas story, lighting the Advent candles on our Advent wreath, and probaby opening up a family gift.  I’m watching a really nice blog called Advent for Evangelicals that’s full of great ideas and thoughts for the season. We’ll keep you posted.

For now, enjoy the start of the most joyful season! Here’s a glimpse of sparkling tree. None lovelier in my eyes… (PS – the tales of putting the tree up are coming soon!)

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Everyday Photos…

1st December 2006

First, a little collection of smiley Josiah faces. Here, he’s being a patient little guy in the Bumbo seat while Analise is on the potty (and I’m reading to her). This is a frequent occurance!

Analise found the mini Precious Moments nativity set at Grandma Beverly’s after Thanksgiving as the decorations were being unpacked. Doesn’t she look a bit like them?

Analise has been doing a lot of reading lately. Josiah likes it when she sits down to read to him (as long as he’s out of reach, otherwise he’d prefer to have the book himself and eat it!). Here, the book of choice, is If You Give A Pig A Pancake. She can finish nearly every line in the book! It’s one of her favorites!

Another favorite book is her Bible. When Josiah’s not a willing audience, like this morning, she’ll set up the dolls and other stuff and read to them.

Josiah’s been rolling all over the floor, pulling his knees up underneath him like he’s trying to go somewhere. He can scooch backwards a bit, too. Won’t be long until he’s on the move! Brian caught these pictures when he’d rolled under the Exersaucer.

As we were getting the Christmas tree set up, Brian took a break for lunch. Analise wanted her lunch as a picnic in the living room.

Lastly, another sweet Josiah smile. It melts me!

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Thanksgiving with the Toones

23rd November 2006

The Toone Thanksgiving Table.

Today’s been a nice relaxing day of celebrating this Day of Thanks with the Toone family. Brian got a short bike ride in this morning, while I cooked and Analise watched the Macy’s parade.  I made a tasty cheesy green bean casserole, scalloped corn, and instead of my traditional apple pie, I made a cheesecake from scratch. Homemade apple pie has been my treat to make – and eat – since my first Thanksgiving in Nicaragua 5 years ago, learning from the lovely Lori Thompson. I love making pie crust from scratch and creating a beautiful delicious pie, courtesy of Betty Crocker’s recipe. And I had been looking forward to it this year, but I stumbled across a cheesecake recipe, and just wanted to try something new. I feel like I’m failing my tradition! Maybe I’ll still make a pie later this weekend;)

Anyway, the cheesecake turned out pretty well. The recipe is from Allrecipes – Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. It was pretty easy, actually. I even baked it in a water bath, and it ended up without cracks. I topped it with melted chocolate chips, just because it looked a little boring. It’s a dense cheesecake, and I I think I might have overwhipped the filling. But it still tasted pretty good. I feel good enough about it that I’ll be more than willing to try other cheesecake recipes. And I don’t think anyone missed the apple pie today.

I also had decided that Analise and I were going to make leaf cookies with our fall cookie cutters (from premade dough sheets). Then I got a fun idea to make a family tree with our leaves. It turned out nice – and tasty!

Josiah relaxing in his swing during dinner, before he decided he wanted to be up at the table.

So we had a relaxing meal, and then the guys helped get the Christmas decorations down from the attic. Analise didn’t get an afternoon nap, beccause she was too busy playing while everyone was working (and I was keeping Josiah happy), so she was overtired tonight. I’m getting the house put back together… well, mostly the kitchen. I’m looking forward to getting some Christmas decorations out and setting up our tree this weekend. Last year I was too tired being early pregnant, and so we just put up the mini-tree. This year, though, I’m excited to set up a real sized tree, in our real formal living room.

Josiah’s looking more like Uncle Matthew every day! Josiah’s definitely chubbier, though:)

Enjoy the photos! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We’re thankful for all of you!

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Gatlinburg Recap

23rd November 2006

View from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg looking east at frost-covered Mt. Leconte, Elevation 6593′

We left Birmingham much later than we expected as Brian worked to get his presentation ready.  We picked up dinner at Sonic on our way out of town, and finally got on the road at about 7pm.  It was a longer drive than we expected, and we finally, thankfully, pulled into our hotel at 1:30am Friday morning.  Before we left, Brian had been telling Analise that we might see snow because the night’s forecast was to be cold with a chance of flurries.  She talked about it off and on all the way there.  And after sleeping soundly for several hours, she woke up in the hotel parking lot, asking where the snow was and when could she build a snowman.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t snow outside, so we hoped we’d find some later in the trip. 

Another view from the Space Needle looking below at downtown Gatlinburg

We drove through Pigeon Forge, TN just before arriving in Gatlinburg.  This is home to Dollywood, sort of a theme park with shows.  Pigeon Forge is full of attractions and shopping, a definite tourist trap.  At 1am, the Christmas lights were blazing as bright as day, and it felt like you were driving down the Strip in Las Vegas.  Gatlinburg, though, is much more of a mountain town, set at the base of the Smoky Mountains in the valley.  It’s a beautiful setting.  Our hotel was on a beautiful mountain stream, which caused Analise to declare that we needed a boat. Brian worked all night to finish his presentation and slipped out for a bike ride in the mountains in the early morning.  He’ll tell you about that later in this blog.  Josiah, Analise, and I woke up at 8 as Brian was heading out the door to the conference.  Our hotel room was on the 3rd floor, with an outside entrance.  We had to bundle up to go to the hotel restaurant.  It was worth it, though, for an all-you-can eat buffet for $5, with homemade waffles and omlettes.  After breakfast, I took the kids out for a walk, and we found the bridge over the stream catching a glimpse of the mountains above us.


Bundled up leaving our hotel room

View outside our hotel room of the rushing stream

Brian gave his presentation in the morning, ate lunch with his colleagues and then ducked out early to get caught up on sleep. After napping, we all went for a walk downtown to explore and eat dinner. We found the space needle and paid a small fortune to ride the elevator up 25 stories to see the incredible view. One interesting note on our walk through town is that there apparently was a large Christian youth conference going on as groups of kids stood outside a convention center and shouting "Jesus" cheers — "We love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus how ’bout you?" Then another group would respond (louder) and shout the same thing.

[Brian interlude — On the one hand, that’s kinda cool, but on the other hand how many kids are even thinking of Jesus as they scream that at the top of their lungs.]

After dinner, we caught the local trolley and rode it around town for just 50 cents each and saw all the Christmas lights in Gatlinburg. Then it was back to the hotel for a promised swim with Analise in the Smoky Mountain’s largest indoor swimming pool (according to the hotel brochure) complete with two levels connected by a waterfall, built-in hottub, and stepping stones. Even though the water was quite warm, we froze getting to and from our room. Analise and Brian were both shivering.

Two picture sequence of the snowball-in-the-eye incident

The next morning, Brian got up really early and went for another bike ride (see story below) and we slept in. When he got back, we headed down for the all you can eat breakfast. Brian was excited about the snow he saw in the mountains, and so after breakfast we checked out and drove up high into the Smokies where Analise finally got to build her "big snowman" and throw a "big snowball". Brian had been encouraging her to throw the snowball at me all morning, so he helped her make a snowball, but as Analise took aim at me and threw it straight up in the air hitting Brian in the eye. That’s what he gets for trying to turn his daughter against her momma. They then put together a not-so-big snowman. After playing in the snow, we finished our drive to the top of the pass to the NC/TN border at 5048 feet. The view was absolutely amazing!

Can you find Analise’s "big snowman"?

Then it was time to go … we decided to break up the 5 hour drive home into two parts by stopping in Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium. Unfortunately they had discontinued the "educators-get-in-free and the rest of the party is half-price" program so we weren’t about to pay $22.95 per person for the remaining hour and a half that the aquarium was going to be open. The other distraction on the drive home was the "See Ruby Falls" and "See Rock City" signs. This is game to try to be the first to try and find the signs for the major tourist attractions, Rock City and Ruby Falls in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.  These signs can be painted on top of a barn or on billboards in a clearing around a bend tucked within trees. Brian and I are quite competitive and the final score was 15 to 14.5 going into Chattanooga.  We declared the game over as we came into the city limits so he could focus on driving and not endanger our lives, with Brian winning.  We sort of continued – non-competitively, of course, as we drove through Chattanooga, and I was definitely the winner by the time we passed the exit for the attractions.  Of course, Brian is really the winner… at least this time.

And now it’s time for Brian to report on his biking adventures.

Hello, and welcome to biking with Brian. I went biking Friday morning after a sleepless night Thursday night driving into Gatlinburg from Alabama and then getting ready for my presentation. This bike ride turned into a ride of four progressions — time, elevation, temperature, and precipitation. I’ll recount the story as a timeline keeping in mind that my conference was set to begin at 8AM with the Welcome followed by the keynote speaker at 8:15AM.

  6:15AM – I finish preparing and practicing for my presentation, so I head back to the room to eat, get warm, and get dressed for the ride.

  6:30AM – I leave for the ride with bike light in hand while it is misting outside with a temperature of 39 degrees.

  6:35AM – By now, I’ve made it outside the city limits and into the Great Smoky Mountains national park. The road starts to climb gently and I see a couple signs that say "Watch for Ice". With a temperature of 39 degrees, I’m not too worried about ice.

  6:40AM – I’ve been "gently climbing" for 5 minutes and I have started to warm up with the exercise.

  6:45AM – Still climbing and I’ve been passed by a few cars. It’s no longer pitch black outside, but the temperature has fallen to 37 degrees.

  6:50AM – As it gets lighter, I can see the river below and to my left that the road has been following. From the rain that morning and night before, there are literally hundreds of waterfalls and small streams going through the forest. The lighting is full of contrasts. The water and the sky are both white, while the broad-leafed forest itself are almost completely brown/grey with all the trees having lost their leaves. The road itself is a different shade of gray, and that is pretty much all the color to be seen. This makes the small streams and waterfalls alongside the road stand out brilliantly compared to the gray around them. I think to myself as I am riding how this is a much different beauty than what I have been expecting to see.

  6:55AM – I am still climbing and begin to think that I can see the top of the pass up ahead. By this point, I have been climbing longer than it takes to climb any of the hills in Birmingham, but the climb is not as steep as those climbs so I’m not sure how high up I’ve come or how much farther there is to go. By now the temperature has dropped to 36 degrees and continues to hold there for the next 10 minutes.

  7:00AM – I make it to what I think is the top of the pass and realize that it’s just a pass between two smaller mountains and that the road continues to climb much higher. It’s much lighter now, too, and I can see that the mountains above me are covered in fog.

  7:10AM – Still climbing and I pass through a tunnel thinking again that I am nearing the top. On the other side of the tunnel I realize that there is still more to go. The temperature has dropped to 34 but I feel quite warm from all the climbing. By this point, I notice a distinct line where the trees that had been behind the fog were covered in frost or snow. This line is still quite a ways above me so I don’t think much of it.

  7:20AM – I make it to the freezing fog line as I notice the trees beside me are covered in frost. I also notice that the road has gotten less wet and that there is hardly any spray coming from my wheels from off the road. The temperature had been at 34 for a little while, but has now dropped to 32. The climb has gotten a little steeper at this point as well. I notice another progression as I continue to climb — from frost on the trees, to dusting of snow on the grass next to the road, to a dusting of snow on the guardrail, to snow on the side of the road and about 1/2 inch of snow on cars parked overnight in some of the pulloff areas.

  7:25AM – The temperature has dropped to 30 and I again think that I must be very close to the top. I realize now that I must turn around soon or I am going to be late for my conference even accounting for the fact that I can descend back down the same route at about 4 times the speed that I was climbing it. Then it happens

  7:30AMThe transition to ice happens very suddenly … For about the 5th time I am convinced that around the next corner is the top of the climb and by this point it is a winter wonderland with trees covered in white, 1/4 – 1/2 inch snow on ground, and a little bit on the road shoulders. I am going around a corner at about 10mph still climbing and the corner is banked slightly towards the river. My rear wheel starts to slide down the road in the direction of the river. I know immediately that it is ice, and for some reason it is extremely frightening to me. Even though I am convinced that I could actually see the top this time, I know that I have to turn around. I know that I have pushed it a little too far. By this point the road is extremely slippery. My brakes are not working well, and I am sliding whichever way the road slopes. Three times I purposely slide off the road into the small snow bank to scrub speed and stop. I can’t believe I don’t fall. I finally figure out that I can ride through the gravel and snow on the side of the road with one foot "hopping" in the snow every 15 feet or so. This lasts close to a mile so I think to myself that the road must be literally freezing underneath me as I am biking. In fact, I am very worried that the temp has been dropping behind me in the valley, too, and that I am going to have to ride like this all the way back into Gatlinburg. After about a mile, however, the temp jumps back up to 32 and I notice that the roads are getting wet again.

  7:45AM – I need to get back to the hotel — fast, but I am still worried about ice in the corners, over bridges, etc.. I am able to get my speed up above 20mph with 15mph in the corners.

  7:50AM – As I descend and the roads become significantly wetter, I am more comfortable and get my speed up to 30 mph. By this time I am starting to get VERY cold. I begin to shake uncontrollably at times. I am afraid of losing control simply from shaking. These are large shakes that wobble my handlebars. I figure out a trick that works very well to help with the shaking. When I notice that I am starting to shake, I hold on tight for a second and then as soon as it passes, I let go of the handlebar with one hand and start to shake that hand and my whole arm as violently as I can while still maintaining control of the bike. This quickly brings blood flow into my upper body. Afterwards, I am convinced that without doing this, I would have had to stop or would have simply lost control and fallen.

  7:55AM – By now I am almost all the way back down and the temp went from 37 to 39 fairly quickly. From the wind chill and spray, I have a small ice mustache. My hands stay surprisingly warm the entire time (maybe from the shaking — both voluntary and involuntary — and from my death grip on the handlebars). My feet on the otherhand are frozen. They feel as bad as some of the winter rides I’ve done up north in subzero temps. Towards the entrance of the park, I come across and startle a large male turkey (tale plume fluttering wildly as it runs off) and then a short distance later I come across 6-7 smaller female turkeys crossing the road heading up into the woods. Quite a Thanksgiving treat!

  8AM – I make it back into town and scramble back to the room to change and get ready for the conference. By 8:15 I am down in the largeconference hall listening to the keynote speaker. Mission accomplished!

For my bike ride on Saturday, I head back up the same route in clear, sunny (but very cold) weather. The roads were completely dry and I am able to make it all the way up to the top of the pass, elevation 5048′. Many of the pictures in this blog post are from the ride on Saturday. I didn’t have my camera with me on my Friday morning ride. I am already looking forward to next year!

You can see why these are called the "Blue Ridge" mountains!

Elevation 5048′ at the state line. This was the turnaround point for my ride on Saturday morning.

Click here to open a map (pdf) of this ride in a new window.

Climbing up to the Snow (wmv ~ 4.5MB)   Winter Wonderland (wmv ~ 1.5MB)
Watch a couple movies from my bike ride Saturday morning.

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