Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You should know: Rachel

"Hey Uy, you wanna teach Bible school to 5th and 6th graders in Alaska?"

With that question, Rachel Willingham and I went from being just colleagues to friends. Before, Rachel was the mostly just woman in the math department that had to drive a 15 passenger van because of all the kids she had. Once, she did hire some of my wrestlers to do some work building a patio and clearing brush as we raised money for camp. Oh, and she was also a NC Teaching Fellow, so we had that in common.
I did accept her invitation to go to Nikiski, Alaska and teach Vacation Bible School for a week. And I loved every minute of it. I do believe, however, that Rachel thought I would bail on her. I actually arrived in Alaska about 10 days early and proceeded to hang out in Anchorage, backpack in Denali and relax in Seward. I got a phone call the morning of the day I was to arrive. It went something like this:

Rachel: "What are you doing?"
Heang: "Trying to get a ride to Nikiski." [I was hitchhiking]
Rachel: "Do you want me to come get you" [A two hour drive]
Heang: "No, I'll find a ride."

A few hours and 4 cars later, I was dropped off at the Fred Meyer in Kenai where a van load from the group was shopping and waiting to deliver me to Lighthouse Community Church. The next week, I get to play, sing and teach awesome kids and become closer friends with Rachel and the rest of the team.

This past summer, Rachel was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's a pretty aggressive cancer she is fighting. Rachel had her first chemo treatment just last Thursday. I say this not so that you will feel sorry for Rachel. I say this because I, and many others, am inspired by Rachel. Her Facebook status updates reflect her personality: encouraging and humorous. She has committed to teaching through the treatment. As a matter of fact, she is at school every day unless she has a doctor's appointment (of which there are many). Rachel spoke to our FCA Huddle [pic below] on Thursday morning, went to her first class and then went to get chemo. She was out Friday because of the side effects but was back with us on Monday. That's an amazing woman.Fortunately for Rachel, she's not alone. She has a great family in her husband Keeth and her childern. Her church home has been there for her. And she is fortunate to work with the most caring faculty anywhere. Teachers have stepped up to cover her classes while she is at appointments, helped cater meals to the family and even shuttle the kids. A few teachers have committed to shaving their heads if individual goals are met by the school and community. The goal is between $200 (Hale) and $2000 (Audra), depending on the head/hair. I'm worth $400. Hopefully, we can raise some awareness of cancer while we raise money to help Rachel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rainbow Falls

I've always said that my favorite place to just sit is at the top of Rainbow Falls, looking downstream of the Horsepasture River.

After church today, I took the 45 minute drive to Lake Toxaway to see Rainbow Falls. I knew that it would be spectacular because of the heavy rains of the last week. And I was not disappointed. The first picture below is today, the second is what the water flow normally looks like.

Rainbow Falls is located on the Horsepasture River within the Pisgah National Forest. At 4.5 miles long, it is the nation's shortest designated Wild and Scenic River. Rainbow is the third and highest waterfall in a spectacular 1/4 mile section of the river. The other two are Turtleback (below) and Drift (aka Bust yer Butt) Falls.

Today was a new experience. The state has finally gotten around to building permanent facilites at Gorges State Park. The new trail to Rainbow Falls takes you upstream to Rainbow Falls in 30-45 minute hike. You used to walk an old, rutted from HWY 281 which put you on the river right below Drift Falls. From there it was a short walk downstream to Turtleback and Rainbow.

As a matter of fact, the entire experience is new. Rainbow Falls and the Horsepasture is just so accessible. When I first started visiting in the early '90s, Turtleback was a "secret" swimming hole that only the locals knew about. You had to park on the side of HWy 281, jump the rail and in some places bushwack your way to unimproved trails that would take you to the river. But when you got there, there were lots (but never too many) people sliding down Turtleback and sunning on the rocks along the river.

There were so many great trips to the Horsepasture. It was lots of swimming, hiking and laughing with good people. There was that time when a girl (nobody we knew) jumped into the swimming hole beneath Turtleback and mangled her leg on a hidden rock. About 6 of us carried her over a mile, uphill back to the highway where an ambulance could pick her up.
View downriver: looking across Turtleback Falls in foreground and drop of Rainbow Falls in back

One time, Ryan and I climbed along the rock on the opposite side of Rainbow Falls and ended up at the top of the waterfall. That was great, except that all our stuff was on the otherside of the river. Being too tired and lazy to descend, we crossed the river. Above the falls! It was a great idea until we got halfway and I looked downstream and only saw where the river ended. In the photo above, imagine two guys in the middle of the river about 80 feet from the precipice. That was one of the stupidest things I have ever done and am very thankful that I'm even here to write about it. Just a few years ago, someone slipped and fell over the waterfall.

Even though it's a long drive from me, it has always been my favorite place to be in Western North Carolina. Sitting on the rock with the river roaring beside me, the foot of Rainbow Falls 180 feet below me and the magnificent river valley before me always humbles and inspires me. In the winter, the trees below often wear a stunningly layer of frost. It is truly a worthwhile hike. You should go. Call me and there's a chance I'll go with you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Didn't Know...

...that western North Carolina had a monsoon season.

I can't remember the last time I saw the sun. According the the Hendersonville Times-News, Edneyville has got over 7 inches of rain between 7AM Saturday and 7AM Sunday. Flat Rock and Hendersonville were close to 4 inches. That's not including the rain we got Tuesday through Friday, all day yesterday and today. The rain has cancelled my trip to the fair, frisbee, golf practice. There are no North Henderson soccer games or tennis matches for me to go to.

What have I done instead? Sat in my carport, reading and blogging and enjoying the rain. The rain has kept me home and that's a blessing I need.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


In 2007, Lebron James made 25 million dollars to hawk, among other things: Nike, Cannondale, Coca-cola and Bubbilicious.

Peyton Manning, who seems to be in every commercial during football season, made 13 million in endorsements.

Tiger Woods, in 2007, made $100,000,000.00. Yes, you read that correctly: including the decimals, there are 10 zeros behind the 1. And that doesn't include the money he actually makes playing golf.

I always thought if I were a pro athlete, I would only endorse things that I actually use and believe in (I suppose that Michael Jordan really did like those Ballpark Franks). I doubt that Joe Namath really used those panty hose and how many people actually believed that Tiger Woods drove a Buick?

Here are some products, though I don't get paid by the companies, that I highly recommend:


2000 Nissan Maxima:
I bought mine new. I don't know if I ever will buy a new car again, but this one has been great. "Pomp", as I have named her, has been such a warrior and great friend. She still looks good and her 222 horsepower v6 engine still hums beautifully. I take good care of her, changing the oil, filters, wipers, etc when needed. She's on her 4th set of tires.

Sure Pomp has had her issues. Nissan went cheap on the power windows in this year model's Maximas. So I've had some issues with windows sticking and had to replace a switch on the driver's side. The O2 sensor was replaced at 82,000 miles and we had a timing issue at 140,000.
There was that time I brushed against a telephone pole (I blame Zoe) and had to get some body work. Not including the body work, regular maintenance and tires, I've put less than $500 into her in 9 years and 152,189 miles.

The accomplishment I am most proud of is that Pompey left North Carolina with me in July and, in the course of nearly 6 weeks, drove across North America and back. Her odometer read 143,613 when we left on July 9. Pomp was at 148,155 when I parked her for a week in Skagway, Alaska on July 27. When we finally arrived back in Hendersonville on August 18, the odometer registered 152,148.

She performed marvelously. With the windows up, AC off, cruise set at 57 mph and bicycles off the roof and in the back seat, we averaged 30-32 mpg on Canadian Highways (normal highway is 24-26). She handled the rough Alaska Highway (which is ALWAYS under construction) like a champion. We ate dust kicked by other cars, absorbed rocks thrown up by passing trucks and smashed enough bugs to fill a museum.
Her engine light did come on about a third into the drive home. The last day, the engine started misfiring going up hills. I thought our relationship was going to be over, she was quitting on me. Turns out, I needed to replace an engine coil. $74.00 part and free labor and Pomp is back to her old self. People ask me when I am going to replace my car. I say when she dies. I really envision myself driving Pomp until she has no more life; which in the Maxima may be a while.
Gas on Alaska Highway


Canon ELPH SD 630

This was my first digital camera and it's been a good one. I got it 4 years ago and it's been it's been to the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, Oregon Coast, Missouri River, Chicago, Vancouver, Washington DC, and dozens of football games, track meets and wrestling matches. It has been dropped from cliffs, exposed to freezing temperatures and rain, sat on, thrown and otherwise lovingly abused. It goes just about everywhere I go. I have used it almost daily for the last two years while taking a picture a day (1, 2). The zoom toogle sticks a little, but it is still working excellently. Oh, and it takes good pictures:
Glacier Lake Mirrored
Seeing what's ahead
Trails diverge

Monday, September 14, 2009

Football Notes

Georgia Tech vs Clemson was another amazing game in the rivalry. When Tech got up 24-0, the game should have been over. But this is Tech-Clemson and we have to play a close game. Lots of credit goes to the Tigers for not backing down and quitting. Good game, glad we came out on top.

Tech's 30-27 win continues a long streak of close and exciting games. Clemson did blow Tech out 39-3 in 2003 and 31-7 in 2006, but here are the margins of victory in the series since 1996: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 (OT in 2001), 5, 36 in '03, 4, 1, the 24 debacle in 2006, 10, 4, 3.

Besides 2003, 06 and 07, 11 of the 14 games have been decided by less than 5 points. The total margin of victory in those 11 games was 35 points. Let me say that again, 11 games decided by a combined 35 points. If there is a series that has been tighter and more exciting that Tech-Clemson in the past 15 years, I want to see it.

It's always the game I circle on my calendar, I would have gone if it were not a Thursday nighter. Last year, after we left with an ugly 4 point victory, my friend Paul said anytime Tech leaves Clemson with a win is a good day. Same for last Thursday, I'll take it.

Scott Blair was the hero of the game with this great play call and later the game winning field goal. Watch it if you haven't seen it:

Read my Tech-Clemson blog entries from last year:

Death Valley Memories
Georgia Tech-Clemson


I think I am going to try out for the Panther's quarterback job. The travesty is that Carolina extended Jake Delhomme's contract and did not bring in a bonifide challenger to force Delhomme to be better or be benched. Three quarterbacks-- Jason Campbell (Redskins), Kerry Collins (Titans) and Chad Pennington (Dolphins)-- had fewer turnovers in a SEASON starting EVERY game for their team last year than Delhomme's 9 in his last two games. [Thanks to Peter King for that tidbit of informtaion]


Who would you rather quarterback your team: Jake Delhomme or Univ or Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton?
Combined stats this weekend: 20/43, 172 yds, 0 TD, 7 INT, 1 fumble lost.
New Orleans Saint Drew Brees stats (all by himself): 26/34, 358 yds, 6 TD, 1 INT.

It's like asking which leg would you rather cut off or which of your children is prettier? You can't win either way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gameday Kickoff

At long last, college football has arrived. What a great weekend. My friend Paul was driving home from the Georgia Tech-Jacksonville State game and, since I could not make the game, was giving me his take. Well, he took a wrong turn and ended up downtown. There were a lot of people there for both the Alabama-Virginia Tech game and the 2009 version of Dragon*con.

"It's a real freak show down here", Paul said over the phone. My mind started racing as I processed what was the freak show:


Virginia Tech-


I vote Alabama fans. And I'm not changing my vote.

Other college football observations:

- I hate it for Sam Bradford. Good kid who came back to school rather than be a top 10 NFL Draft pick. Hope he heals quickly.

- NC State-South Carolina made me want to gouge my eyes out. Miami-Florida State had me glued to the screen.

- I was very impressed by the quarterback from Baylor, Robert Griffin.

- I hope Boise State and BYU both go undefeated.

- I still think they are the best team and should be ranked #1, but Florida's nonconference schedule includes the likes of Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International (and Florida State). I used to diss Virginia Tech for their easy out of conference schedule, but now they are scheduling Alabama and Nebraska. Come on Gators, play some real schools.

- Georgia Tech is good, but we are going to need to be really, really good and at the top of our game every week to beat Clemson, Miami, UNC, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia. Despite their mediocre showing last week, the ACC has several good teams (and a few really, really bad ones).