CRF Mammoth for Memorial Day

While Bryan stayed around home to spend time climbing with David, Mandy and I made a trip to Kentucky to go caving.

We arrived around midnight and after signing us into the expedition, I poked my head into a few bunkhouse rooms before finding one with only one bed filled. Mandy and I threw down pillows and blankets and went to sleep. It occurred to me that in most places I’d feel pretty uncomfortable putting my daughter to bed in a darkened room with an unidentified man, but at Hamilton Valley I didn’t think twice about it. When she mumbled “I’m cold” in the middle of the night, he got up to turn on the heat for her. It turned out to be Tom Brucker. Continue reading “CRF Mammoth for Memorial Day”

CRF New Years

This is Bryan’s seventh New Years at Hamilton Valley, the Cave Research Foundation’s facility at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. For Mandy and I, it’s the fifth New Years. It’s become a sort of fixture in our family schedule. Mandy makes a big deal about having just the right kind of sparkling grape juice, which she drinks right from the bottle at the New Year’s ‘party’ with our friends.

This year, for the first time, our family was asked to handle kitchen duties for one day. We got up early to cook breakfast for about 40 hungry cavers. Then Mandy and I got ready to go caving, and Bryan stayed above ground to cook garlic chicken, rice pilaf, and the best lemon pie in the world.

For the first time, this year (because of newly revised guidelines) Mandy’s old enough to cave with regular survey teams in Mammoth Cave. (She went on a trip to Roppel a couple of years ago, but that was a special one-time deal.) So in addition to her usual long visits with friends, and helping a bit in the kitchen, and hanging around the edges of conversations with people she admires, she actually got to go caving two days in a row. She was a happy, happy girl. Continue reading “CRF New Years”

Lexington Polo Tournament

Mid-West Bike Polo Open

LRBP learned a lot in Austin and then we learned even more in Lexington, KY at the 1st Midwest Open bike polo tournament. Nathan, Dan and I asked the organizers questions, we asked the computer programmer guy questions, we participated in the refereeing meeting and we helped ref several games. We paid attention to how the registration and the after-party was done. We also had a great host who loaned us his apartment and some of us discovered FourLoko (just in time for it to become banned).

With these notes, we should be well prepared to put on our next tournament and show our polo friends a good time!
The courts in Lexington were very nice (and blue!) and a lot bigger than our home courts. This led to me feeling like I was always chasing the ball around. Our passing game was pretty good due to recent practicing. I think we played good defense but our shooting wasn’t up to par. And the larger courts led to us getting tired and allowing goals to be scored in the final couple of minutes.

We went into this weekend wanting to score at least one point in every game and we accomplished that. Our scores from Saturdays games:

1-3 them
4-2 us
1-3 them
1-4 them
‎3-2 us

Lynn Rides Again

Lynn Brucker rides a unicycle at CRF Hamilton Valley.
Lynn Brucker rides a unicycle at CRF Hamilton Valley. Also in the photo (l-r) are unknown, Lynn Brucker, Mandy Harris, Matt Goska, Joyce Hoffmaster, and Mike Carter (the one from Arkansas).

Mandy brought our unicycle to Hamilton Valley at New Years to show off her new found unicycling skills and in conversation with the Bruckers, Mandy found out that Lynn used to be able to ride a unicycle.

So on the last morning of the Expedition, Lynn tried out Mandy’s uni on the sidewalk in front of the bunkhouses. I was loading up the car when Aly tapped me on the shoulder and told me to grab my camera so as to document the moment.

I shot the scene with my Pentax K10D shooting away at 3fps, hoping to catch something but not knowing if it would be success or failure. Lynn made two short but successful rides and the image shown above is a composite from this second ride. Remember to click on the image to see it larger.

If anyone can identify the guy on the left, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

New Years at Mammoth Cave

On Thursday morning, we left for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It’s Mandy’s and my fourth straight New Years at Mammoth. Bryan’s spent six of the last seven New Years in Kentucky. We enjoy the company there as much as we like the caving.

As usual, the New Years’ party was, well, subdued. There was beer and wine and orange Koolaid. I had made several kinds of crunchy breadsticks to share, and they were set out on the table in clear glass jars along with the things others had brought. But as the evening wore on, more and more cavers filtered off to bed. By midnight there were only a half dozen of us on the Watsons’ old yellow couches in front of the fire, to share Mandy’s bottle of sparkling juice and toast the new year.

Bryan caved on Friday, with Lynn Brucker, Joyce Hoffmaster, and Jeremy Reedy. They went up Snail Trail to survey in a crawl. He’d just gone to the Goodwill store for expendable clothing, and so was caving in a purple dress shirt and a pair of houndstooth plaid pants. He was sad to find that his cuffed pants had to be tucked into his rubber boots. And he also learned that Snail Trail’s not a great place to wear a button-front shirt. It’s too bad he’s worn out his yellow Meander suit.

After the cavers were out of camp, Mandy and I hiked with Charles to the Salts entrance. The park has changed all the cores in the locks, and asked CRF to try out the new keys to confirm that everything’s working. It was cold, in the mid-twenties, and Mandy broke the ice in all the puddles along the road. Below the trickling waterfall the big cage of a gate was breathing out a great cloud of warm steam. We walked back to camp and then spent the rest of the day on our usual minor aboveground projects (lunch, the visitors’ center, the gift shop, and Floyd Collins’ grave) before heading back to Hamilton Valley for a nap and to help in the kitchen.

On Saturday, it was my turn to cave. I went with Ed Klausner’s group to work on a survey in Belfry Avenue. We entered through the arched doors of the Carmichael entrance and hiked down past the Snowball Dining Room, down El Ghor, down Silliman Avenue, then to Cascade Hall (where we got to see the “tourist trail handrail” from the connection between Flint Ridge and Mammoth!)

From there we continued on to Stephenson Avenue to Opossum Avenue (where there is a set of directional arrows in the ceiling carved by Max Kaemper) and then to Belfry. The passage we surveyed was a close fit, but dry and sandy: curving question marks cut by water into the cool stone.

And then we walked, for miles and miles, in the longest cave in the world, past our own history. And then we were back out in the cold night, where it was starting to snow.

(The caving photos in this post were taken by Nicole Bull.)

Happy New Year!

Once again our family spent the New Year holiday at Hamilton Valley with CRF/Mammoth and good times were had by all. Mandy got to run through the compass course before heading over to Adwell Cave to survey Roger & Lynn Bruckers new surveying course. Aly and I helped in varying degrees and our closure wound up being 1.2 feet horizontal and 0.5 feet vertical over the course of a 511 foot loop.