Friday, May 30, 2008

Graduation day! Already?

Wow, it seems like yesterday that my little guy was running naked around the deck playing with water, and today he graduated from Kiddi-garten!

To start things off let me just say that I was a little dissapointed by the whole ordeal. Notices were sent home a few weeks ago but didn't say anything about the time. It just said "kindergarden end of the year program" No mention of time, or of it being a graduation. So I emailed the teacher a few days ago and she informed me to the time, and that it was technically a graduation without actually calling it a graduation.....Hmmm....back in my day we had real graduations for kindergarden. Oh well, back in my day you could fill up your gas tank with loose change found under the seat.

Anyway, the kids put on a cute little show sang a whole bunch of cute songs that they had been practicing for the last few weeks. This was followed by some announcements and then handing out of the sheepskins so to speak. (actually they were laminated pieces of paper but who cares) I was soo proud of my little guy, he stood up straight and sang really well....Mostly. He did skip out on a whole lot of smiling but his excuse was that he was trying to be serious instead of acting crazy. I guess I need to explain that he can be serious and still smile...I dunno we'll work something out. Unfortunately Dannibee missed out on the show as she was MC'ing a presentation for a mulit-million dollar job for her work and couldn't break free so it was just me with the video camera.

I'm posting the video here but you have to understand and forgive me for the fact that I am no videographer of photographer for that matter. Most of the still and motion picture shots that I take garner much criticism from my wife and other family members. Don't like my work? Tough! I'm all you got, and that's my little man up there doing his thang! For those of you who don't know which one is him, you only need to watch where the camera is pointed most of the time. Forgive me for the bumping and moving around. There wasn't a lot of room for the tripod so I used it one legged style.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thar's GOLD under them thar waves

A couple of days ago I was searching through some old photos and found one of me and my dive buddy on the treasure hunting ship Virgalona. Danielle, not having been with me then thought that I should write about it, so here it is.

During the Summer ot 2003 I was working for and by myself as an industrial engineer. I had a not quite 1 year old son and I was not doing a very good job of bringing home the bacon. One day a friend of mine mentioned that one of his clients needed a flybridge designed and built for his yacht. I met with guy and we talked design and price and finally settled on $8000.00 which was a pile of money to me who had none. Turned out he got a better deal than he should have but that was another story.

About the time I finished building the fly bridge the boat owner asked me if I wanted to do some treasure diving with his crew. The deal was that he would buy my dive gear and pay me $750 a week cash to dive 8 hours a day 6 days a week. At a time when most treasure divers worked on a comission which rarely paid anything and the fact that I had zero experience I should have been worried but I took the job anyway.

My first day diving was on the good ol' Virgalona. Mel Fishers old boat which was now owned and captained by Mel's old Captain Moe Molinar. I was diving with a veteran Coastie named Byng who was a few years my senior who had been treasure diving for years and the Boss' son Danny who was a complete idiot. Byng showed me what to do and regaled me with tons of stories in the first few days of diving. Our first few days was scan diving which is basically swiming lanes on the reef with a metal detector and digging up any hits that we got. In those first few days of scan diving I had a chance to remember all the crap that I learned in dive class some 4 or 5 years earlier and became super comfortable in the water again. In fact one of the jokes we would play on each other was turning off your buddies air during a system check and then shoving him in the water. After a while you just got used to this stuff. We really were a bunch of pirates!

Those first few days of scan diving however did nothing to prepare me for the sheer terror that I felt on my first hole dive. Hole diving is where you use a device on the boat called a mailbox that is positioned over the propellers to direct the prop wash to the bottom and blows huge holes in the sea floor all the way down to the buried reef or rock. To start off with, I was still pretty unfamiliar with shipboard life and duties such as rope coiling and using hydraulic winches and had a rude awakening on my first day out on the Virg. In order to blow holes you have to position 3 anchors, one off the bow and two off the stern. This is done by tying the bow anchor to the stern of the tender, and then haulin ass about 300 feet out and dropping the anchor and then repeating the process with the tow stern lines one at a time. Not an easy task! If you've never towed 300 feet of 1" poly line with a 12' boston whaler you have no idea how difficult it can be. After dropping the anchor in position, the lines are tightened using some ancient and rusted hydraulic winches which are also used to adjust the boat by either lengthening or loosening various lines. If all of this sounds tedious.....It is, and painfull too. Poly rope tears the hell out of your skin. Anyway, after all of this was done, we through the dive ladder over and I was told to go down and pin the mailboxes? How? You don't know? I didn't either. I suited up, and geared up and dove in and fought with the boxes for about 10 minutes all the while being really really nervous about hanging on to an 18" diameter prop while the engine was idling up above. After about 10 minutes Byng jumps in with a mask and little else and pins the boxes in about 45 seconds. My first day wasn't going well. I stayed in the water while Capn Moe firewalled the engines for about 5 minutes blowing an enourmous hole in the sea floor. As soon as he throttled down, Byng dives in, and motions for me to follow him down. As we are descending, I can see a dark cloud billowing up at us......and then it hit! Holy Crap!! it went pitch black! Black like you can't imagine if you've never been there. If you put your hand on your mask you couldn't even see the skin that was touching the glass! I don't think that I had ever been so scared in my entire life! I tried to fight the panic but lost out after a few seconds that seemed like a few hours. I kept trying to figure out how to surface without slamming into the bottom of the boat whose props were engaged at idle speed to keep the hole from filling in. Honestly, I couldn't even figure out where up was! I finally pumped a little air in my BC and swam like hell in a direction hoping for the best. Luckily I popped out of the cloud before I popped out of the water and was able to get my shit together before anyone on board saw me. I hung there in mid-water for a minute trying to get a grip on myself and finally decided that this was my last chance to feed my family so I guess I'd better get on with it. After all, a job is a job....Right?

Surprisingly enough after that first episode I didn't have any more panic attacks under water. After a few drops it became routine. Engines go to idle, dive under and grab the mailbox, let the propwash shoot you to the bottom, turn on the metal detector, crawl around the hole counter-clockwise in an outward spiraling circle while your dive buddy does the same thing going clockwise spiraling inward. After about 7 minutes the visabilty clears, and within 10 minutes of hitting the bottom you're usually done and back on the dive ladder. If you get a hit, you bury one hand in the sand, or hang on to a rock if available, grab your dive knife and dig it out. Most of the time all we found were cans, bottle tops and lead fishing weights. All of these had to be retrieved even if you could tell by the hit what it was. ( you don't want to have to dig it up again)

This routine went on, 5 minutes on the ladder, 10 minutes in the hole from 8:00 in the am until 5:30 in the pm day in, day out. The only time we were out of the water was when we were filling our tanks and swapping gear. Hell, we even ate our lunches and smoked while hanging on the dive ladder. After a few days it became boring as hell, but the pay was good, the company was better and of course there was always the chance we would find some gold!

We only had a few adventures and mishaps. One time we blew a hole, and I went down to the bottom and found no hole, just hard packed sand. This went on for 3 or 4 times before I went down and hit rock. Keep in mind that when you hit the bottom your BC is completely deflated if you are even wearing one, and the props are still turning at idle speed so the water is kicked up pretty bad so you have no idea where up and down is. So anyway, I'm crawling over the rock, running my metal detector and not really finding the bottom to be what I expected. I keep crawling along, and all of a sudden the water clears and I realize that I'm head down in a crevace that is slightly larger than my body and about 20 feet deep in the ocean bottom. I was only about 2 feet from the end of it! I still get chills when I think about what would have happened if I had reached the end of that crevace before the water cleared. I like to think that I would have kept my cool and figured it out, but more likely I would have freaked out and died.......

Another time Byng and I were in the hole in Sebastian and the water was the color of Haitian coffee even before we messed it up, I'm in the hole doing my thing and head for the surface where I run into Bying on the Dive ladder looking like he'd seen a ghost. Turns out he reached out to steady himself by hanging on to the bottom and grabbed a shark or some other big fish by the tail. He said the he could tell it was the tail area by the shape, and it was big enough that his hand didn't fit around it. Yikes!

And of course who could forget the time that we were diving just South of the Sebastian inlet, I think it was Corrigans and we had a school of hammer heads decend on us. I was actually on the boat while the other 2 guys were down (not the usual state of affairs) when about (4) six foot plus hammer heads swam up to the boat and kind of circled around. Bying and the other Mike came up and quickly got out of the water and then we realized that someone had to unpin the mailboxes or we weren't going anywhere! Good ole Byng dove in and unpinned the boxes! Sharks be Damned! What a guy.

Turns out, we didnt' find any gold or silver that year. All we found were some musket balls, part of a gun, and what later investigation revealed to be a section of the bow of the former German Kaiser's personal yacht.

I never did go back to diving, giving it up for a more practical job. Sometimes I miss it though...... and who knows, we could find some Gold!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My New Bike, Finally

It's been a long time coming but I've finally done it! I bought a new Full Suspension Bike.
This story starts about a year and a half ago with my first trip out the the Fort Pierce Bike trail.
When I started my new business back in January of of 07 I decided to make a whole bunch of changes in my life at the same time. The biggest of these changes was getting my fat butt in shape. Since Business was a little slow to start off with I had a little bit of spare time so I hooked up with my Cousin Jefe' and started swimming at the college at lunch time. Turns out that I hated swimming so we left off with the swimming and switched to racquet ball instead. About the same time, one of my friends who happens to be 62 years old mentioned the bike trail and said we should check it out as it was a good way to get in shape. So the next day we went out there and decided to run the trail. I couldn't believe how bad off I was! we started out running and after about a hundred yards I gave up and started walking. My feet wouldn't let me do the running so I decided to get a BMX bike. I used to ride BMX in my early 20's and would ride on over and above anything I could find so I figured that I could do this no problem.....Yeah Right! My first ride on the trail was a nightmare with lots of going over the bars. I left the trail and immediately went to the LBS and picked out a barely used Mountain bike for $270.00. I figured that if I didn't like the sport I wouldn't be out a whole lot of money and wouldn't have a big money bike collecting dust in the garage.
Bottom line I started MTBing and fell in love instantly. From that day on, I kept upgrading parts as quickly as I could afford until I had pretty much maxed out my frame......Now what. I'm still riding a crappy hardtail frame with rockin components and I feel like I'm getting a little old to be banging around the trails on a hardtail.
I had been eying a couple of FS bikes at the LBS but every time I thought I was getting close to buying one, something would come up. Poor Chris at the bike shop endured hours of me stopping in and drooling over the FS bikes and asking tons of questions about all of the bikes usually starting with "how much" This last few weeks though I made quite a few breakthroughs at the office and had most all of our bills paid off so I finally had a chance to pick out my "dream bike"
My newest purchase is a Trek Fuel EX-8 and it is the first thing I've ever bought that actually works as advertised. It accelerates and climbs like a hardtail and rides the trail like you'd exect from a 5 inch travel bike. Now I just have to find a chance to go hook it up on some real trails!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pushing the limits?

Ever since our little bee started making consious movements and stuff I've been pushing her to go a little farther. At 3 months old she was sitting on my lap one day and I got an idea (usually not a good thing) I held her by her hands while she squatted down on my lap, and I gave a slight lift and said "stand up" Guess what? she did it! I of course followed that with "sit down" and the repeated the process about 100 times....Ok, it was actually more like 10 but still, I was stoked! Now she's six months old and I'm try to teach her how to stand up by hanging on the the sofa. Not working out so good, she'd rather shove herself over instead of hang on.....maybe we'd better hold off on that one for a while. But still, in the interest of having a successful moment I got her to stand up next to my legs long enough for few pics.

I dunno, maybe I'm pushing too hard and I'm sure that in a few years I'll wish she was still the cute little bundle that pukes on me every time I hold her, but for now she's kinda like a new bike....I wanna see what she'll do!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This one is a little late, but I figured it would be nice to have a little more on my page than just the typical hey how ya doing sort of stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a road trip for some biking. For some of you this may not seem like too big of a deal but for me, these trips are few and far between. Our local bike trail is closed due to some legalities and the only place left to ride within an hour sucks! So I load up the gear; bike, extra tires and tubes, a couple of jugs of gatorade, helmet, riding shoes, body armor and a hefty stack of energy bars and hit the road for Ft. Lauderdale leaving about 9:00 in the AM. I'm planning on meeting some friends down there so luckily I won't be riding alone.
Turns out, Markham park has just instituted a new rule that you have to sit through a really dull video (about 5 minutes long) and then sign a release of liability and get an ID card to ride the trails there now. So after 2 hours on the road, I spend another 20 minutes in the park office an fulfill my obligations. Time to hit the trails! After all, this is what I came here for.....right?

I hook up with Mike and Cindy (who just finished the video) and we head to the trail-head and gear up. As intelligent and health concious individuals we do a quick warm up lap on a fairly windy but completely flat trail to get our cardio up and running and then head for the big stuff. Our first "real" trail is called washing machine and gets it's name because if you run it fast it's like getting thrown around in a washing machine....lots o fun! We get about half way through the trail (about 2 miles) and I'm riding through a transition area where there is literally nothing going on, pretty harmless flat terrain, and I stand up to pedal and WHAM! my back goes out. I don't mean like I had a little pinch, I mean it went OUT! I started screaming like a little girl who just lost her barbie doll and wrapped my body around my handle bars. Mike and Cindy come racing up thinking I just racked my man parts on my bike. After much cussing and screaming they get me off the bike and on the ground....bad idea..... I ended up spending about an hour and a half laying in the dirt beside the trail trying to figure out how in the hell to get out of there. Mike ran off to get some help while Cindy held an ice pack on my back and fielded questions from everyone that had to stop and see if there was any blood. Usually when someone is lying in the dirt at Markham they are bleeding profusely and of course everyone wants to stop and see the carnage. "what happened""he threw out his back""oh....nothing to see here guys lets go" Jerks! Actually a few stopped and asked if they could help but there wasn't much to do. Eventually Mike get's back with help and they inform me that I might want to get carried out on a spine board...I don't like this idea but concede that it may be the only way until they inform me that EMS is the only people that can make that happen. ARGH! not on this trip they aint. After much pushing, pulling and screaming (rumor has it folks though Ned Beaty was in the woods) they manage to get me back on my bike and roll me the mile or so back to the trail head. After a quick lunch consisting of part of a sub and half a bottle of advil they get me in the car and send me packing.

I have to give a quick shout out to my sister who talked to me on the phone the whole way home, without her help I'm not sure I would have made it. After getting home I had to crawl into the house all the while hoping nobody would see me, and collapsed on the floor. Luckily the older 2 were with the grandparents, and Danielle and Nati were out shopping I really didn't want to be seen like this.

Bottom line is that I took about a week with a few Chrio visits to get up and going again and now I'm trying to figure out when I can get back to Markham to finish where I left off.....Funny thing is that despite being in excrutiating pain, I was and still am more upset about wasting a whole day than about the back thing.

Let's hope the next trip turns out better.

A Mountain Bikers Perspective

Well now, isn't this intersting. I guess I've graduated from Myspace to a more...Mature blog spot. I guess that's ok because I never bothered to write too much stuff on myspace anyway. It was too much of a pain to log in and find my blog and stuff and stuff and stuff...... Ok, let's face it. I'm lazy. I'll try to keep this updated fairly often with some entertaining bits from my life.

For starters I'm a dad with 3 children. 2 from a previous marriage and one from my wife Danielle. Lets see.... We have Christian who is 6, Aj who is 4, and Natalie that just turned 5 months. I'm married to a wonderful woman, Danielle who has joined our family and made it her own. I'm also a Mountain biker who lives in Florida! Yeah, go figure I guess I could have chosen a less appropriate sport for our area like maybe ice skating but one ridiculous time-sucker of a sport is enough for one family man to handle.

Being a family man, biking has taken a back seat the other aspects of life like running a business, washing baby bottles and taking care of the 2 older kids. Biking is, and will remain a favorite sport for me and I look forward to the day that the rest of the family is able to join me on the beloved bike trails.

As for my blogs, please don't pick on my spelling, punctuation or subject matter. I write the way I think and that's usually long, disjointed and full of commas, , , , or long pauses........ I'll write about anything and everything and may get a little worked up. Please don't be offended. If I'm writing it, that means that I'm not shouting it at anyone.