18 April 2014

Cavers and VAR! A Great Weekend!!!

What a WONDERFUL weekend!!! 230-odd cavers gathered at the RASS Field Station for the Spring VAR meeting.
We'll start out with the "leaving selfie"
I made some new friends, renewed old ones, and had an absolutely great time. Since I signed up to work at Registration on Friday and Saturday, I hung around the Field Station, but that's OK, it was really a lot of fun!
The empty field on Thursday afternoon when I arrived. See the moon?
Here it is a little later. We're talking about 5:30PM here.
The bat symbol is an unofficial but universal symbol for cavers.
You'll see them most often on car bumpers. We can easily tell that
someone is a caver by this sign. And RASS now has a flag! Salute, all you cavers!
This was the Registration tent before the crowds hit. I was too busy playing
traffic troll (the gate traffic director) to get any pics!
Many cavers decorate their cars with multiple stickers
proclaiming their affiliation with the caving community.
The field started to fill up. There's also the "back forty" (more like 10 more acres,
this is close to 16 out here) that held campers.
No rubbish! It's nice to be able to work and drink! I started in on the beer about noon Friday!
A front blew through and after some sprinkles, the sky was rather pretty.
This is my man cave in the back of my Xterra. It got cold at night, that fluffy down
sleeping bag came in handy!
Easy-peasy breakfast. Pre-cook some bacon. Throw it in a freezer-grade Zip-Loc® bag, then crack a few eggs
into the bag. You can add cheese, spices, just about anything you put in an omelet. Then dunk it in a pot
of boiling water for a no-clean-up meal that can be eaten out of the bag!
I hung around the campground on Saturday, and the primary activity there was a vertical workshop. In caving, this is called Single Rope Technique (SRT). This is where cavers learn and hone their skills on caving ropes, used to rappel into and climb out of vertical caves. Rigged in trees, there are pulleys and devices to lower someone who is having problems.
A rappel rack allows a rope to be locked off for climbing
and released to lower someone.
Some of the skills that were being practiced were "single rope pick-offs" where a caver who becomes incapacitated on rope is rescued by another caver who "picks them off" the rope and takes them to the bottom until a better rescue can be mounted. 

(simulation only!)
Being kicked in the chin is better than dying!
Dénes (DAY-nesh) is having way too much fun hanging around
waiting to be rescued!
This is an example of a carabiner that you DON'T want to use again!
Inner Mountain Outfitters came up from Georgia to supply us with any
caving gear and fashions you could want. Please visit their website for any
camping/caving/rescue needs you may have!

This is the company I worked for (on the side, going to caving events) until
the founder sold it a few years ago so he could actually retire!
We now interrupt our regular programming for a SELFIE! YES! I was there!
We feed everyone dinner on Saturday night! Here's the set up for cooking 50 pounds of spaghetti!
The start of the sauce!
35 more cans to open, and there sits the peanut gallery with the
chief cook (Billy) on the far right!
He did get into gear, though, and made 30 gallons of sauce.
With meat. And another 5 gallons of vegetarian!
LOTS of bread. And see all those Red Solo Cups? Oh yeah, BEER!!!!
We also laid the fire for later on.
It's a little excessive. See below!
People actually do go CAVING at VAR! (Stolen pictures)
Christopher, a young man (15yo) with Down Syndrome, plays Frisbee
with some other cavers while waiting for dinner. Chris and his 3
brothers and sisters and parents, went to Island Ford Cave and had a blast!
When they get back...DINNER IS SERVED!

Painting with GARLIC BUTTER! My favorite artwork!
There was spontaneous entertainment!
Followed by a presentation...really interesting topic - anthropological significance of caves by Mayans in the Yucatan.
The intro to Kristen.
Kristen, in native dress. Neat presentation, I learned a lot. I always enjoy that!
 After the presentation, we had a FIRE!
This is how you melt marshmallows when faced with a CONFLAGRATION!
Sunday morning was the VAR Business meeting. BOOORRRRRING!!!
The rest is anti-climatic.

And yeah, I made it back home in one piece, lest I not be writing this! Here is the AFTER SELFIE!
Gotta love that wind-blown sweaty hair look! 120-odd miles with the windows down, the radio off, just
cogitating about my life as I drove home. It was a wonderful weekend in all respects.

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