Tag Archives: adventure

Things I’ve Done – First Adventure by Maribeth Shanley

MB SMALL2Have you ever stopped to reflect on your life and all the amazing things you’ve done? Recently I did. I am amazed that I had the guts and persistence to do some things most people would never attempt to do.

My first amazing adventure took place a few weeks after meeting my husband, Bob.  We both lived in the Washington, D.C. area.  It was 1970.

A few years earlier; and after being discharged from the Army, Bob spent time in Pendleton County, West Virginia caving with some Army buddies. There were lots of opportunities to go spelunking (the proper name but rarely used by cavers) in West Virginia. So, one day Bob asked me if I would like to go caving. I couldn’t wait!

As a child, my parents would take us into commercial caverns. You know the ones. You follow a man-made path where electric lights and on/off switches have been installed. As a kid, that was fun; but, I always felt drawn to the paths off the main pathway. I wanted to know where they went. In fact, there were many trips into the commercial caverns when I nearly snuck away from the group. Good thing I didn’t, those paths are not lit and there are unseen perils.

The week prior to going caving, Bob bought all the gear we needed. He bought two hard hats and two carbide lamps that slipped down into the front portion of the hard hats.

Carbide Lamp “Oh,” I said. “These are hard hats made just for caving! Wow, I had no idea!” He also bought a canister of calcium carbide and several baby formula bottles for storing the carbide and water. Of course I had to ask why the water.

When calcium carbide is mixed with water, it creates acetylene gas.   As you can see from the drawing, the carbide lamp has two chambers. The bottom chamber is where the calcium carbide is stored. The top chamber is where the water is poured. The physics of the two elements creates the gas which escapes the ignition stem where there’s a striker assembly with a cap, hex nut, spring, flint and a spark wheel.

On the top of the lamp is a valve control stem. Thus, once mounted on the helmet and you’re ready to go caving, the water valve is turned, allowing the water to drip into the calcium carbide. As the mixture creates the gas, it travels through the lamp stem and can be ignited with the flick of a thumb … just like a lighter. The reflector lamp creates a soft light that is perfect for moving through the bowels of the earth.

Well, that’s all well and good, I thought, but I just had to ask Bob why the heck we had to use carbide lamps. “Don’t they make lamps that are battery operated; like a flashlight?”

Bob explained that the carbide lamps are used instead for a very important reason. Caves are prone to produce and contain a scentless gas called methane. Then he asked me what type of animals live in caves.

Thinking I was smart I answered, “Bats live in caves.”

He smirked. “What do you think happens when bat waste decomposes?”

I rolled my eyes. I knew where he was headed.

“Bat waste,” he continued, “Produces an ignitable gas called methane; so, if there’s methane in the cave, the lamps will go out and we will know to get the heck out of the cave.”

He explained that it was why miners used the carbide lamps vs. battery operated ones.

Satisfied that we should definitely stick with the carbide lamps and leave the modern, battery operated lamps out of the equation, I put my hard hat on only to realize it wobbled around on my head.

“Ok, but what if I tip my head with this helmet on my head?” I asked this as I continued to shake my head back and forth demonstrating how the helmet wobbled around. “What if I hit my head on a rock, won’t my helmet fall off? Then what?”

No big deal! Bob had already considered this as he produced a sheet from his linen closet and began ripping a longish strip of cloth off the sheet. He then, turned the helmet, minus the carbide lamp upside down and wove the cloth up through the plastic guts of the helmet so that we could tie the cloth under our chins which would secure the helmet to our heads.

From there I noticed Bob had also bought a really long, thick rope. “What’s that for?”

“In case we need to climb up or down a section of the cave that doesn’t have sufficient hand or foot holes.” At the same time he produced some metal contraptions which he called carabiners which he explained, when used properly, would secure the ropes to our bodies so we wouldn’t fall.

At this point I should have told him he was nuts and run like hell; but I didn’t. I still wanted to know where all those paths went.

That Friday night we gathered old jeans, shirts and light jackets. We also made sure we had good gripping tennis shoes. We were ready to head to West Virginia the following day for a day of caving.

The next morning we left at 5 a.m. and arrived at our destination around 9, stopping only for a pick up breakfast at Dunkin Donuts.

Bob had decided that our first cave adventure would be, Sinnett/Thorn Mountains where we would enter the cave system from an opening in the rocks on the side of Sinnett Mountain. Sinnett Mountain was connected to Thorn Mountain deep in the cave. So, we climbed a bit up to the entrance, put our helmets on, tied the cloth under our chins and ignited our lamps as we walked into mountain, just like walking through an open doorway.

Sinnett Cave entrance

We then walked a bit as the dust in the air caught by the light from outside began to disappear. We were walking down a now slanted path and the air began to cool, but we were ready for the cool air. Earlier, Bob had explained that once in the ground, the temperature would average between 50 and 55 degrees. It was a pleasant temperature for what we were doing.

Bob and his friends had explored this cave a few years earlier, so he was fairly certain he knew where to go. We were headed to the wall which went straight up about 50’. At the top of the wall was the big room which was about as deep and wide as a football field. So, after wandering around for an hour, we found the wall and began climbing. Fortunately there were plenty of hand and foot holds. When we got to the top, we lifted ourselves up into the big room. We sat on the cave floor and pulled out one of the baby formula bottles from a backpack and drank some water, then checked our lamps to make sure we had plenty of carbide and water. We could hear a few bats flying around when Bob asked if I wanted to experience absolute darkness.

Sinnett-Thorn Cave

“Sure. Why not.”

We snuffed our lamps and sat in the cave. Believe me, if you’ve never been in the guts of the earth with the lights out, you have no idea how absolute the dark is. It’s also totally quiet except for the occasional bat that would swoosh overhead.

We ate a few candy bars for energy of course; then, we were ready to go find the blow hole that connected Sinnett Mountain cave system to that of Thorn Mountain. So, we walked to the opposite side of the big room and began looking for the hole at ground level. We found it and, it’s a good thing we weren’t chunky people because the hole was just high enough to lay on our backs with our back packs on the ground but over our heads. That’s how we moved through the 20’ blow hole, on our backs head first, pushing the back packs along the ground in front of our heads and pushing our bodies with our feet.

They didn’t call it the blow hole for nothing. Once we were inside the hole, our lamps were blown out by the wind. It was howling through the hole.

A few years later we took my sister and her husband on the same caving expedition. My sister panicked when the lamps went out. She was convinced there was methane gas present. I had to talk her down so we could continue.

Finally, we reached the end of the tunnel, pushed our backpacks out and stood up where we could once again ignite the lamps. In front of us was what looked like a slant mountain and it was slick with water. We were fortunate that day.

After we entered Sinnett Mountain, another group of cavers entered through the sink hole on top of Thorn Mountain. They had over 100 feet of rope secured with pins to one side of mountain known as the mud slide. The group of six were coming down one by one using carabiners. They offered to let us climb up the slide using their gear. I went first.

Before we did, however, and as we waited our turn, we walked around the small area at the base of the slide. At the bottom of the slide was a small ledge. The ledge sat at the opening of a big hole in the rock wall. The ledge was on the edge of a crevasse. While waiting, Bob and I threw rocks down into the crevasse. We never heard them hit a floor. No one in the other group had a clue how deep the crevasse was and none of us wanted to find out as we all agreed, a fall down the slide would dump you right into the crevasse! This was the image I had and which led to a little fear mongering as I climbed up the 75 foot extremely slick, slanted mud slide.

I swore the whole way up. It’s what I do when I fear for my life. I swear like a truck driver; and it worked as I swore up my fear.  I had to apologize when I reached the top of the slide. But the guy at the top just waved his arm and said, “Don’t worry about it, everyone swears. That’s a scary climb! You’re fine.”  Finally Bob climbed up, the last guy shook our hands and climbed down, taking the rope down as he descended.

Left was an easy stroll from the slide on a path that was an upward one as it led us to the sink hole of Thorn Mountain. As we walked we could smell the fresh air filtering down through the hole and the temperature was becoming increasingly warmer. We knew we were close to the exit when we began to once again see particles floating through the now day-lit air.

Thorn sink hole

We arrived at the sink hole and looked up. It was about a 40’ climb. First, however, we had to bend down and walk under a ledge, which, we discovered was covered with brown colored sleeping spiders. It was like something out of a horror film and I for sure didn’t want to wake them up!

Bob climbed out first. Then I began to climb. I made it a little more than half way up the wall of the hole when I realized the last 20+ feet was slick as a baby’s butt. There were no more hand or feet holes. I panicked. I was physically capable, but not that capable. So I froze. I was scared to death of climbing the rest of the way up when there were God knows what kind of spiders down at the bottom of the hole, where, with one slip, I would fall.

We spent the next hour with Bob’s now little head, peaking down at me from the top of the mountain and offering to throw down the rope and pull me out. No way, Jose! If I didn’t learn anything from my abusive childhood, I learned that I could trust no one with my life, let alone this guy I met only a few months prior. I would do it myself. So, I stood on that damned ledge for a long time trying to get up enough nerve to climb out. The entire time Bob tried convincing me to trust that he could pull me out.

Suddenly … and, to this day, I still can’t figure out how I did it … I was up at the top of the hole, crawling out. I guess I just made up my mind to climb out, so out I climbed.

It was the middle of the afternoon, the sun was warm and high in the sky and the grass was as green as could be. I lay on my back and soaked up the rays. I had accomplished a fun, yet very scary feat.

Several years later, as I told the story, I realized how that experience had for me, become an allegory for the similar sink hole of my past I needed to traverse.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00030]


Filed under fun, Maribeth Shanley, writing

Need An Adrenalin Rush? Read a Thriller by Christine Husom

Some years ago, I left my job as a corrections officer, working with inmates in a jail, to take care of my mother who was a victim of dementia. I knew the change would be challenging, but what I hadn’t considered was that I would miss the adrenalin rushes, common in my former position. Then I went to a thriller movie that was excitingly scary and kept my heart pounding to beat the band through much of the two hours. I left the theater happy, and a little surprised by that. I hadn’t thought of myself as an adrenalin junkie up to that time.

So if you find yourself craving a little excitement, sit down with a thriller. One that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In our everyday lives, very few of us are involved in thwarting assassination attempts or acts of terrorism. All the while, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys who would surely want to kill us. Thankfully. But a huge segment of the population likes to read about people who are.

What distinguishes a thriller from other mysteries? For the most part, they are fast-paced, action-packed stories where a smart, resourceful hero must stop an enemy and his or her evil plan without getting killed himself. They are often large scale crimes or plots such as mass murder, or over-throwing a government. But there are also thrillers where an innocent victim is dealing with a crazy person who is out to get them. The suspense drives the narrative, sometimes with ups and slight downs, sometimes with constant thrills. They maintain tension to the final climax when the protagonist defeats the antagonist.

According to Wikipedia, “Thrillers emphasize the puzzle aspect of the plot. There are clues and the reader/viewer should be able to determine the solution at about the same time as the main character. In thrillers the compelling questions isn’t necessarily who did it but whether the villian will be caught before committing another crime

“ . . . Usually, tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller the protagonist is faced with what seems to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful they face personal dilemas along the way forcing them to make sacrifice for others.”

There are any number of types of thrillers in the genre, including: psychological, spy, legal, crime, espionage, terrorism, military, mystery, medical, political, adventure, religious, historical, etc. They are set in small towns, large cities, on the seas, exotic islands, polar regions, desolate areas. Anywhere the author can spin a thrilling tale that keeps the reader engaged to the end.

Do you have any favorite thriller authors, or books you’ve enjoyed? Or, if you write thrillers, please tell us about them.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind author of the Winnebago Mystery Series. Her fourth book, The Noding Field Mystery will be released Fall, 2012.







Filed under writing

Along Life’s Road by J J Dare

2007 – Grounds at The Hermitage in Hermitage, Tennessee

Yesterday, I was talking about how sad I was that my late partner and I did not have the chance to take some journeys together. There were places I’d traveled that I wanted to show him and places he’d traveled that he wanted to show me. In addition, there were places neither of us had been that we wanted to experience as new adventures with each other.

We were able to go on a number of trips. The most exciting ones were to Las Vegas and Nashville. The best ones were weekend jaunts within a few hours of our home base. The perfect ones were the ones we were planning but had yet to take. Boston was at the top of our list of shared journeys we looked forward to taking.

Do we walk every journey in solitude? Even with someone sharing the adventure, do we ultimately move toward our destinations alone?

A close one brought up a point yesterday when I was feeling blue. Her conclusion was that, even beyond describing the places to others, we are the result of all the places we’ve been and those who aren’t with us on these journeys can experience them through us.

It was a lot to take in. My summation is I carry those I love with me, no matter where I go, no matter when and no matter who is with me. People who have been present for part of my journey are present for all of it, even if they are not with me in physical form.

The same is true with writing. The stories I tell are journeys and I travel with those who read what I’ve written. I want to take the reader to places I’ve been and to places I will only dream of visiting. Experiencing these destinations through writing has opened up my own world and the best compliment from a reader is that it has opened up their world, too.

One of my favorite quotes is “The journey is more important than the destination.” How many times have you read a book and when you come to the last page, you don’t want it to end? The journey you take when you immerse yourself in a world another has created for you is oftentimes more satisfying than the end.

With certain books I’ve read, in my mind I ask the same question at the end: what happens next? Sometimes the author will continue the story with another book. Sometimes I have to continue the story’s adventure on my own. I never want the journeys of my favorite books to end.

I am guilty of delaying some of my own writing adventures. Although writing is my lifelong voyage, the “False” trilogy I’ve worked on is one shy of the trio. Right now, it’s the “False” duo. Life happened and the journey I’ve been on for the past two years pushed the final book of my trilogy on an unforeseen hiatus. One day, though, one day.

The journey continues . . .


J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction


Filed under books, fiction, life, musings, Travel, writing

My Handy Research Tools by Coco Ihle

I’ve found being a pack rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of my trips to the U.K. were family vacations and because these were special occurrences, I didn’t want to forget anything. Taking photos, saving receipts, keeping a trip diary, buying brochures and even audio recording various tours and people became the norm for me.

This collection came in handy while compiling photo albums to share with the family later. I didn’t have to wonder where the heck a certain mystery photo was taken or try to remember an itinerary or timeline. I was so glad I had documented everything.

Since trip planning fell to me, I wanted to make the experience as rich as possible. One year, my (former) husband and I, his parents, and our son went to the U.K., rented a car, and set out touring England, Scotland and Wales on a six-weeks adventure. Since we had three generations in the car, my goal was to include sights that would interest everyone.

We saw battlefields, military monuments and museums, visited Brands Hatch British Grand Prix Race Track and had pints in local pubs to satisfy the guys. Madam Tussaud’s, the planetarium, taking a class in brass rubbing, listening to bagpipers in Scotland and seeing suits of armor up close were fun for our son. Visiting and staying in historic manor homes and castles, attending medieval banquets with the Ladies of the Court in period costumes and strolling in topiary gardens were treats for my mother-in-law and me. We all enjoyed driving through the lush countryside and stopping in quaint villages with their thatched roof cottages; and speaking with the locals gave us different perspectives on the things we had seen and experienced.  At every turn, we tried to make each day interesting and unforgettable.

One night, we stayed in the thirteenth-century House of Agnes Hotel in Canterbury, mentioned in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield. Another, in the The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, a seventeenth-century coaching inn. Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland was once an eleventh-century monastery and is said to be haunted. Lord Dalhousie at Dalhousie Castle flirted with my mother-in-law during our postprandial cocktails, and she blushed for weeks afterwards. I could go on and on.

To help refresh my cherished memories, I have shelves full of brochures, audio tapes, photo albums, music, artwork, you name it. When I began writing my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, set primarily in Scotland, I needed details for descriptions of castles and the countryside, on people in the villages, their personalities and their speech patterns. Even though I had Scottish friends at this point, and the Internet, I relied heavily on my experiences and documentation of the many trips I had taken.

I’m so glad I am a pack rat! Any of you, pack rats, too? Has it been good, bad?


Filed under books, fiction, musings, writing

“Pourquoi pas? Why not?” by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been wandering around Europe for the last 3 weeks, and have just returned home. (Happily exhausted.) We were a day and a half late arriving home due to delays at the airport – not long at all considering that a little over a week ago we were listening to reports that this errant volcano might continue to spew ash for 2 years and fearing we might either have to take a steamer home or make a new lives for ourselves in Europe.

Yes, I have a wild imagination. That is what makes me a writer. My imagination has gotten me into trouble on more than a few occasions, but most of the time, it serves me well. Like it or not, I can’t seem to shut if off.

What if…? I wondered constantly, while we explored one country after another…

We were in Switzerland for only one night, so we didn’t get any money switched into Swiss Francs, assuming we would use our credit card as needed. After we checked into our chalet, we  drove into town, parked inside a parking garage and walked around downtown Lucerne until the sun set. We had dinner, then took photos of the lighted buildings reflected in the water of the lake until we were very sleepy. When we went to retrieve our car, we found that the machine would not accept our credit card.

Being stuck inside a parking garage (I hate parking garages, and we were carrying large amounts of cash, which scared me greatly), late at night, in a city we’re unfamiliar with, with no way to call for help (our cell phones didn’t work in Europe – even if they had, whom would we have called?) is not my idea of fun. We started to walk, and thankfully, found a woman who worked in a nearby bar who was willing to trade us some Euros for a few Francs.

We escaped the parking garage unscathed… But what if…

The next day, we drove through the Gotthard Tunnel to Italy and stayed the night at a 400 year old villa with shuttered Romeo and Juliet windows that looked out to the sea. After making multiple trips up 6 flights of stairs with heavy suitcases because we had been told to not to leave any luggage in our car in Italy, we were so tired that we pretended we were Sleeping Beauty instead of Romeo and Juliet. (In the morning, we found out there was an elevator…)

We woke up early and were relieved to find that our car had not been tampered with… But what if…

After we had walked along the sea for several miles, snapped some magnificent photos, and eaten a hearty breakfast, we had a wild ride along the Mediterranean in our little rental car (which was big by Italian standards). My husband was very good at maneuvering his way through and around the narrow streets, traffic congestion and curves. Still, scooters were everywhere, along with millions of people, kids, cars, and bicycles. At some point, we were hungry and thirsty and wanted something to eat and drink. There were no places to pull over or to park for miles on end.

What if… I wondered… What if my husband let me out of the car long enough to grab what I needed while he circled around? Would he ever find me again? Would I ever see him again? The thought was slightly terrifying, and we decided not to risk it.

And then, I started to wonder… What if I didn’t want to be found? What if I wanted a new life? What if, instead of returning to the designated pick-up point, I slipped out the back door of the shop and never came back? What if I simply disappeared?

I had a few hundred dollars, my passport and a credit card in my purse. Where would I go? What would I do? Whom would I trust to help me? Who might I meet? What would happen to me? What would my life look like a few weeks, months, or years down the road?

And then, I was given a new question to ponder, if I were ever to get tired of asking “What if?”

After relaxing a bit in Provence,  we traveled to Aix-en-Provence, and met a fascinating woman who is a friend of a friend. She grew up just a few miles north of me, in Southern Minnesota.  At some point, after she was divorced and her children were grown, she sold her house and everything she owned and moved to southern France.

“Why?” I asked.

“Pourquoi pas?” she replied, without hesitating.

“Why not?”


Filed under Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

The Birth of My Androgynous Writing

The highest compliments I received when I wrote my first story were from several readers who assumed I was a man.


I am not a man. I am a woman. There. Now the cat is out of the bag. < – meow – >


I love stories about war and battle. Fighting and swords and guns, oh my. Long-range missiles and hand-to-hand combat, violence and destruction – all will put me in the mood to write. My best friend firmly believes I was a soldier in a past life or two. But, that’s another story (pun intended).


Part of this love for battle developed during my formative years. For better or worse, as a later-in-life surprise baby my father spent more time with me than he had with my older siblings. He and I spent many comfortable hours in front of the television watching his favorite movies and shows: war and crime.


As a youngster, I still watched the requisite cartoons and children’s shows, but the impact of sharing violent shows with my father had a profound effect on my psyche. Since my father had served as a Marine in WWII, many of the movies we watched were about combat.


Even now, given the choice between an action adventure and a chick flick, I’ll usually go with the suspense (unless the chick flick has a lot of action . . . no, not that type of action, the other type).


My father told stories to me as I grew older, tales of fighting in the Pacific Theater on islands against enemies in close quarters. He reminisced about his experiences as a gunnery sergeant and the shipboard guns he controlled. He spoke of the horrors of war.


Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had a somewhat normal upbringing (things didn’t get really crazy until I became a teenager). My mother tempered my father’s horrific stories with a softer side of death: she spoke (and still speaks) of car accidents, collapsing bridges, and the deaths of friends and relatives.


No, my father’s name was not Gomez and my mother’s name was not Morticia. Our house was not gloomy; in fact, it was super modern for its time. We didn’t converse with dead relatives nor did we have freakish cousins visit (well, not too freakish).


But, we did deal with reality. Typical topics of conversations around the dinner table would include life and death, crime and violence, all with the evening news as a backdrop.


Now that I think about, my family was rather fixated with the more brutal side of life.


The influences in my early years, and other experiences throughout my life, are what shape my writing. Action and suspense come naturally to me, as do battles and war. Being able to write through the perspective of a man is not that difficult; after all, men are remarkably human, too.




J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,” the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy.


Filed under books, fiction, life, writing

My extended family

I am surround by family. I have a husband, son, sister, mother, and brother. I have more cousins, aunts, and uncles than I could count, even using my and your toes. Oh did I mention in-laws.

I have friends that count as family. Those that call me after months of not hearing from them…

“Hey, Suz. I need your couch.”

I hope I’m not unique in that.


I have a very special extension of my family too. While we all have some things in common, we are as different as… well snowflakes come to mind. Mostly because of the flake part. 

We are creative, smart (at least we think so), loving, and friendly. We are also testy at times, each have moments of “duh”, and get hurt feelings, even when it was not intended.

We are unique in the fact that, while we work together, hardly any of us have met. We know more about each other than some of our blood. We talk, we share, we agree, and sometimes must agree to disagree. 

I am of course talking about the authors around me that have found their home in Second Wind. I’m talking about writers that range from Mainstream Fiction to Paranormal Romance. We also range from thirty years-old to past retirement.

We live from coast to coast and everywhere in between. We also love to read, love to write, and create in ways that amaze me from day to day.


And though we all write, our books are as different as we are. We have different voices, different genres, and different ways of looking at each. And through it all we will stand as family, like any family; with love in mind, and stories to tell.


Suzette Vaughn

The Second Wind Publishing Family

Author of Badeaux Knights and Mortals, Gods, and a Muse


Filed under books, fiction, life, writing