Monday, August 6, 2012

Guys Retreat at the Ocoee

I spent the weekend near the Ocoee River in Copperhill, TN with 3 of my best buddies.  This is the fourth year in a row I've headed out of town with these guys for some much needed fellowship and fun with Bryson and Lee.  And, this year we were glad to have Gregg join us.  I know it will be a tradition that will not soon be broken.  These are the 3 guys I meet with every other week here in Nashville.  We talk about all sorts of things twice a month - but mainly it's just good to know I have some guys that understand me and that support me as I am.

On Friday, we met up at Brysons house at 9am.  From there, we all piled into Lee's car (he usually drives) for our 3 hour trip past Chattanooga into the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We traditionally stop at Starbucks near Manchester, TN and this year was no different.  This morning, Lee was feeling his usual frisky self. To make us all feel uncomfortable and embarrass us, he decided to see what we would do if he walked out of the bathroom with his shirt unbuttoned right there in Starbucks.  Lee!!  What are we gonna do with you?!!  Once we turned off of 75 onto the side roads, we stopped at Angela's Restaurant for a little meal.

After 3 hours of driving, we finally arrived at our cabin - the Ranger's Cabin at Whitewater Express in Copperhill, TN.  This was a place we visited last year in September when we used them for whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River.  We loved the feeling of the place and the cabin itself in 2011 and had this cabin reserved for almost a year when we finally arrived on Friday around 1pm.

The guys gave me my own room because I was the loudest snorer of the bunch.  Yes!  Gregg slept upstairs in the loft (the coldest spot in the cabin).  He had to climb a ladder to get up there. Bryson and Lee shared a two twin bed room.  

After getting settled, we explored the grounds on foot.  There was a group of high school youth just getting in across the field.  Wow, they were loud...and pubescent.  It seemed quieter last year when we visited...Oh well, we checked out the ropes course.  We were given a tour.  It was nice, but not worth $28.50 per person.  We would be finished in about 15 minutes.  Not worth it.  They also had a Blob on a man-made pond on the grounds.

We decided to eat in both nights, so we bought enough food for the weekend for all of us at the local Piggly Wiggly (in Ducktown).  We set the table on the deck outside and sat down to enjoy a good meal together.  Well, very quickly, some yellow jackets caught wind of our good food and started attacking us.  Gregg was stung pretty hard, then Lee starting swatting.  Pretty soon, we ran inside for our lives with our plates and drinks.  We left the meat sauce outside and within 10 minutes we didn't dare try to bring the pot of it in because it was covered with a swarm of yellow jackets.

With our bellies food after eating on our make-shift table and chairs inside, we enjoyed some of Heather's (Bryson's wife) home-made carrot cake, we turned on some Olympics and played an intense game of cards.  Bryson forgot his deck of Rook, but Gregg surprised him with a new pack of Rook that he had planned on giving him all along on the trip!  It was fun.  Lee and I were amateurs compared to Bryson and Gregg.  In fact, Gregg had never lost in Rook since Bryson taught him a few years ago.  That night was no different.

Afterward a good couple of hours or Rook, we sat outside, had a great talk all of us.  We heard some of the youth sneaking out to the Blob on the pond and jumping on it.  Lee and I were inspired to climb out there ourselves and see if we wanted to do the same.  Lee pulled out because of his back.  We tried to get Gregg and Bryson to come out - but they wouldn't budge.  Oh well, it could have been a blast - although not allowed.  We had a great conversation about the things we each feared the most - not physical fears, but emotional and mental ones.  It was really interesting and helped us to understand one another better.

We finally got to bed around 1:30 that night.

The next morning, we woke up early - I cooked some bacon and eggs for everyone, cut up some fruit.

We took off for the Ocoee trails.  It was an awesome morning - a slight breeze, low 80's and partly cloudy.  The Ocoee seemed really high that day.  We would walk alongside of it for quite a while too.  The hike was just what we needed.  We walked for almost three hours - up and down the hills next to the Ocoee.  It was great exercise and we enjoyed some good talks along the way.  We hiked 7.25 miles that morning.

We grabbed a quick lunch on the go and headed for the Hiwassee River for a 2-man kayak trip.  As soon as we got there after driving about 30 minutes, it began to sprinkle.  That sprinkle turned into an all out downpour and thunderstorm for about an hour.  We were delayed in getting out because of it.  We crammed into a van and drove together with some other riders from Murfreesboro.

The rain just stopped when we pulled into the entrance of the water.  The water was shockingly cold.  To top it off, we were freezing/shaking from the cold water/rain.  So, it wasn't a fun beginning - lots of clouds and fog.  But, by the end the sun had come out and we were burning up.  I was in the back and Gregg was in the front.  I steered.  Bryson and Lee shared a kayak and they seemed to be slower than us most of the time.  Not sure what they were doing back there.  We spent almost 3 hours on the river.  It was a little low in spots - we got caught on several rocks throughout.  Overall it was fun for us though.  We could be lazy in most of the spots - it wasn't a challenging river for us - more relaxing.

That night, we made another meal together, then watch another night of Olympics and Rook marathon. One moment of the Olympics that blew me away was the South African Oscar Pistorius, who qualified for the semi-finals after coming in 2nd in the quarterfinals by running on two prosthetic legs.  Simply inspiring.  Also, Michael Phelps won his 22nd and final Olympic medal - the greatest ever.

On the Rook front, Gregg and I teamed up.  We had a good lead in the first game together.  Somehow Lee just kept on getting great hands and they came back and beat us - Gregg's first defeat.  Lee and Bryson very obnoxiously hugged and celebrated together.  So gay, I thought.  :)  Actually, I was pretty annoyed - and so was Gregg.  I was determined to be more aggressive in the next round.  We came back and won easily in the 2nd game.  In the third and last, Lee challenged us to a 1000 point round.'re on, Lee.  Bryson just rolled his eyes and knew was domination by Gregg and me!!  I learned how important it is to be aggressive and bid higher on some of the hands I was dealt.  He who gets the kitty is usually the winner - except Lee lost with the kitty 3 times over the weekend.  Oh well - credit him for taking risks!!

Afterwards, I asked Gregg to show me some of his wrestling moves.  Gregg teaches wrestling to the high school boys at Paige High.  Wow, did I learn a lot from him.  Still on a full stomach, I did my best to keep up Gregg.  I learned it's all about position and control in wrestling.  Gregg showed me some good moves that I can share with Alex when we wrestle.

After the 3rd workout of the day, I was wiped.  Bryson took some funny pictures of us wrestling and my face afterwards - completely wiped.

For the last couple of hours, we shared some of our goals together. Bryson was wiped out and went to bed around 12:30.  Gregg, Lee and I stayed up for a while longer - talked some more while we built a fire in the outside fireplace.  It was a great night out in the mountain air.

The next morning, we had a good breakfast and just about 2 hours to have some sharing and prayer time.  Lee and Gregg primarily shared.  It was great to hear more of Gregg's story as he's the newest member of our group.  We finished with a good prayer time, cleaned the house, packed up and headed home.

We stopped in Manchester, TN on the way home and ate at one of Bryson's favorite restaurants growing up - I think it was called J & G Pizza & Steakhouse (actually Greek food).  When we walked in, it was like stepping into a time capsule from 1978.  The food was great though.  A nice end to a great guy's trip.

There's nothing better than being known so well by a group of guys.  As an only child, I didn't have a chance to experience that as much.  We've shared experiences and vulnerable conversations together.  These men are my brothers in Christ.  Can't wait until next year!

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