Royaneh Recap

IMG_1973Okay, so it’s taken some 40 years before I got out to experience the wilderness and learn to camp. Since Zachary joined scouts 3 years ago, we have numerous opportunities to go camping, either with Pack 1155 out of Brentwood or with the local Boy Scout Troop. This past weekend was just our second, three day camping trip, which should have lasted until Monday, but due to traffic and other concerns, we decided to cut it short and get home, leaving early Sunday afternoon.

Located about 120 miles northwest of Oakley, off Highway 116 and the Russian River is the Cazadera Highway, which leads up the valley towards Camp Royaneh. A ‘Boy Scout Camp’ sign welcomed us as we crossed a small bridge over Austin Creek, as we turned right and followed the signed.

Our trip began earlier in the week, as collected all our camping gear from storage, went through each container and consolidated the items we would need for three days. For a brief moment, I considered taking my MIL’s 11-person tent, little did I know it was 18’x18′ until I had it unpacked on my driveway. The “CF” or “coolness factor” got the tent a 10 but realistically I was not about to set up and take down a tent of that size for just the two of us.

I went down the list I made, checking off items that were accomplished. I did assemble the cast iron stove just to make sure there were no gas leaks and replaced the #21 mantles in the gas lantern. Everything appeared to be in working order, until Sunday morning. Before we left I took the propane tank to the local Ace Hardware to get it filled, come to find out the valve and tank need to be re-certified. Thankfully they still topped off the tank (less than a gallon) and didn’t charge me.

Camp Royaneh wouldn’t start accepting campers until 2PM, which gave us plenty of time, as IMG_1957we stopped off at REI to purchase Merrill hiking shoes for Zachary and a set of Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest SOlite sleeping pads. With those final pieces of gear in place we headed north on I-680!

This would only be the third time I have ventured further north than Vallejo, going to Santa Rosa in previous years. Being the start of a holiday weekend, traffic seemed a bit heavier than normal, although the bridge wasn’t bad. Waze told us about 2:25, with an arrived around 3:00PM. We were going to be the first of our pack to arrive. No sooner were were leaving Vallejo and we hit stopped traffic transitioning on to CA-37W, which lasted past the Sonoma Raceway up to Lakeville Highway, where we waited in traffic to turn right towards our destination.

Traffic was slow but moving and I decided we would take a bit of a detour that would hopefully allow us to miss some traffic, yet see a few sites along the way to Camp Royaneh. As we departed Petaluma on US-101, we got off and too the back roads over to CA-1N, the Coast Highway. It was a beautiful drive that only added about 10 minutes to the drive, minus our stops along the way.

IMG_1962Our first stop, Bodega Bay, home to Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller, The Birds. It was a nice drive through a rather quiet sea side town, as we stopped to take in the sites and the wind before continuing north. Since Zachary had only been the beach once, we stopped off a few miles up the road at the Sonoma Coast State Beach. We parked the truck and walked down the stairway that led to the sand, with the rough waves crashing in onto the shore. We ran around for a few minutes, but never did get down to the water, as I was a bit leery of leaving my truck with all our gear unattended, parked just off the road.

After we had our fill of the sand, we walked back up the cliff side steps and we were back in truck heading towards camp. It was a great peaceful drive as we left the coast and headed inland, crossing the Russian River! It wasn’t but a few miles down the road, we stopped for a photo opportunity with the Russian River in the background to pay homage to the Russian River Brewery and Pliny!

We paralleled the river as it wound through the hills on CA-116E passing Duncans Mills before arriving at the turnoff to Cazadera Highway, our final stretch to Camp Royaneh. This highway ran next to Austin Creek, which was very dry as we were shrouded in trees making our way up the canyon, turning onto a partially paved road.

IMG_1974Camp Royaneh was founded in 1925 by Raymond O. Hansen to provide a safe yet exciting experience for Scouts. “The camp’s success is largely due to a tradition of excellence which has singled it out as one of the oldest and most widely attended Scout Camps West of the Mississippi.”

Being only the third BSA camp we have attended this was by far the best one (Camp Herms and Cutter Scout Reservation being the other)! As we arrived, we walked to the camp office and registered, receiving green wristbands and a parking permit for the weekend. The camp director discussed some of the rules, such as parking and the areas we could pitch our tent in. With her help, we settled on an area just under the camp amphitheater called, Green Bar, for the three green bars a patrol leader for the BSA wears on their shoulder.

IMG_2005We drove up the hill to Green Bar and then walked the area to find a suitable location to set up camp. We also took into consideration the two other families that would be joining us. The main area (see map) was quite wide open, situated between the pool/shower, scoutcraft shack and the road. With some campers already setting up, Zach decided on a small area just off the road within some trees that provided our camp with some privacy. More importantly, it was flat.

We unloaded our gear and began setting up our 9’x7′ tent (that’s the orange one in the image above), including a 7′ covered porch, broke out the camping chair and set up our kitchen. Others would not be arriving until about 9:00PM, so Zach and I were alone for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. After the stove was set up, I boiled the water for his freeze dried meal and I ate salad with diced, marinated potatoes. We did a little bit of exploring around the local camp area and then sat down and got serious with Jenga.

 14195198_10210039562056272_7824821472546644010_oAfter we finished with Jenga we got ready for bed. It was just after 9:00PM and our friends had still not arrived. We did have a visitor in our camp. At the stream was a deer, drinking water not minding us being there. I pointed my headlamp in the deer’s direction and she kept drinking, before she raised her head and started walking off, away from our camp. It wasn’t but 15 minutes later we heard a voice in the night. “Zachary?” He sat up and answered, “yes!” It was our pack leader and her family, they had just found the camping spot.

Earlier in the afternoon, after we registered, we drove back down the canyon until we got a cellular signal in order to provide a location for those who we were going to camp with. It took another 30 minutes out of our day, but it was worth it to have our pack together, camping in the same location. We welcomed them to the Pack 1155 camp site at Green Bar and they proceeded to unload their gear. Unlike us, they came more prepared. Minus their gas stove and food, their gear was loaded into their backpacks. I found that absolutely awesome and hope that I can persuade Zach to continue on to Boy Scouts, where camping is a monthly event for the boys!

By the time the pack leader and her family got their tents set up is was nearly 11:00PM and we were all ready for bed. The night was rather uncomfortable, as we did not bring the air mattress. Last time we camped it sprung a leak so we were really sleep on the ground. This time around I could not find the air mattress, so I bought these Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads that kept the cold ground from getting to us, but honestly, they were not comfortable.

14206170_10210039581016746_2727761017741637416_oSaturday started early, as I woke after an restless night sleep about 7:00AM, laying in my sleeping bag as I head rustling outside of the tent. A pack of wild turkeys were meandering through camp before getting airborne and flying off into the trees. I dressed and made the walk to the bathroom/showers, returning to camp and boiling water for my tea. Zach woke up a few minutes after I returned and wanted breakfast before the day ahead of us. He had scrambled eggs with bacon, freeze dried, of course and a cup of hot chocolate. One by one the other campers woke up and breakfast was in full swing. The agenda for the morning was archery and crafts, before some BB gun shooting and pool time in the afternoon.

A group of use made the 15 minute hike up the trails to the archery range, which was above the camp, in the hills, while the older boys and one leader when to shoot rifles. The organization wasn’t really up to scouting standards with two boys managing the range. The older boy was the range master, shouting commands to the archers, while the younger boy provided the safety briefing but mismanaged the flow of scouts and parents onto the range. Most did not ask permission from the range master, which is a common practice when the range is live. About 45 minutes into the wait, an adult leader took it upon herself to organize the picnic tables as queues, but the wait was still dreadfully long. Nearly 2 hours after we arrived on the range, our boys were finally on the range knocking arrows and taking aim.

14258108_10210039602297278_8404054250096978668_oWe got a bit lucky as there were a few open spots and our boys had the opportunity to fire a second quiver of arrows before the range shut down for lunch. While we can’t fault the volunteers for the time and effort they put in to make this family camp a success, many of the archers required assistance while on the range, my son included. I tried to yell a few pointers to him, but it became an exercise in frustration as there was not enough help for those young archers struggling. Still he went through two quivers and had a good time. His only comment was the duration of the the wait. When we finished it was 30 minutes past when the range should have shut down for lunch and we headed back to camp.

The afternoon schedule was changed, as none of the boys wanted to take aim with the BB guns, guess they had enough waiting and I am sure the range would have been similar to the archery. Instead we moved up the crafts and swimming, after lunch we headed down towards the registration office where the crafts were taking place. The boys had an opportunity to build one of four different projects; a box with sliding top, footstool, communications board or toolbox. All the wood was pre-cut, requiring only sanding and assembly. This was a hit with all our scouts, so much so many decided to build a second the following day.

The boys wound down the day in the pool, which appeared to be rather cold! Even with the day being in the low 80s, by the time we entered the pool area, the sun was slowly setting behind the rising trees. While at the pool the boys had the chance to take the BSA swim test. Zachary didn’t want to, but the other scout from my den did and passed, so he will get partial credit for his aquanaut badge. About 30 minutes later it was time to dry off as the pool was closing and dinner time was on the horizon.

14249842_10210039609737464_3655092879536302972_oIt was still light out when we started cooking dinner as campers made their way back from the day’s activities. Before we started dinner, the boys ran around the local area, played games and basically had fun. I, along with another dad walked off to check out some of the sights and we were rewarded with a cellular signal, as we looked out over the valley. I put a quick text into my wife, followed by a call, which caught he off guard and she called back in a panic thinking something was wrong. We talked for a few brief minutes before I made my way back to camp to cook dinner.

During dinner I discussed backpacking and camping with the two pack leaders, something they had done for nearly their entire life. While not fully educated on camping, I do want to get into backpacking and they provided a wealth of information regarding camping gear, areas to backpack and options to get into the hobby with kids. Zachary, at 10 years old loves to go camping and honestly when he is with the other boys in the pack, he doesn’t miss the electronic devices.

After dinner was done, I fired up the gas grill and offered s’mores to anyone who wanted one. We were waiting for 8:30 PM, to walk down to the mess hall for the family ice cream social. Some of the boys went off to play basketball, while others wandered the camp until the line started forming for ice cream. While I passed on the cold treat I did hold our table as the boys and leaders started returned. We started up a few board games and played for the next 90 minutes, as all enjoy the company and fun we were having. As campers started to filter out, we finally packed up the games and walked back to our tents. Sunday would be our final day, as we wanted to get back early. Zachary wanted a day off before school and we wanted to beat some of the holiday weekend traffic home.

14249824_10210039617057647_648430360714849597_o Sunday morning was quiet and peaceful as I laid in our tent contemplating the drive home as my vacation was coming to an end. Ot was a lazy morning, as we all rolled our of our tents, with water boiling we started fixing breakfast. I slowly started to break down our tent and pack up the unused supplies we did not need. Zachary ate his last freeze dried meal and I polished off some oatmeal and a few pieces of toast with some green tea.

One of the scout leaders wanted the group to participate in Scouts’ Own, an inspirational, informal ceremony held as part of Scouting or Guiding activities. In conjunction with the Scout Law, we discussed being trustworthy and to always tell the truth. Our leader delivered a good talk and then we each said what we were thankful for that Sunday morning. This helped two of my boys and a portion of their Duty to God in Action achievement for the Arrow of Light!

We returned to camp and the boys wanted to build another project, so Zachary went with the others, while I packed up our supplies, tent and sleeping bags. I walked down the hill to the parking lot, and moved my truck up to the camp site and loaded the truck up. This gave me enough time to get back down with Zach, where I found him sanding wood to make a foot stool. He built a fine looking foot stool all by himself, I only helped do some sanding, but he assembled the project.

14188693_10210039647298403_1477672562817779817_oWe said our goodbyes to our fellow campers and were on the road by 11:15AM bumping down the dirt road back to Cazadera Highway. It was about 10 minutes before we had some limited cellular service and we called home. It didn’t last long as the signal went in and out with nearly every bend in the Russian River. Traffic was a bit heavier than expected as we rolled towards Guerneville. The holiday weekend had brought a lot of people out, many camping in and around the river, but others enjoying the day.

We decided to take a quick detour through Santa Rosa and the Russian River Brewery. It came as no surprise there was a line out the door of people waiting to get in. I had Zachary snap a quick picture of the building and we stopped for a quick bite to eat and were back on the road, scheduled to be home about 3:00PM. Traffic wasn’t too terribly bad, some minor slowing into Vallejo, but we were ready to be home. Camping has been a great experience, to the point we want to experience more and possibly even look into backpacking some of the local areas.

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Weekend at Cutter Scout Reservation


Zachary and I leaving Oakley for Santa Cruz.

While reading an article on the Internet, I ran across a piece that said to the effect of “do something new every day.” Everything seems to be so routine as we go through our day from waking up to our work. This past Friday, my son and I did something new. In 45 years on this Earth I had never taken the opportunity to go camping. My wife, growing up loved camping with her family, but for me camping was usually a beachfront hotel with a bar, running water and a toilet. Now that I have experienced “the outdoors” I can’t wait to get back.

For scouting, my son and I signed up to go with Cub Scout Pack 1155, out of Brentwood on a 3 day camping trip to Cutter Scout Reserve located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was very fortunate that my wife owned a 2-person tent and double air mattress, while my MIL had bins of camping gear, including stoves and a propane cylinder. Initially I was under the impression that a camping trip meant a hiking trip, little did I know those are very different. That’s good because I was not ready to shell out $400+ on backpacks for the both of us.


Zachary getting ready for BB guns and archery.

Aside from food, it was less than $300 to buy some camping supplies and two Kelty sleeping bags. Preparation and planning started the week before we were leave for Santa Cruz, as made a list of what to take, what we would eat and what needed to be purchased. While I felt confident about my the planning stage, I knew there would be changes when I looked back after the weekend. This trip also gave me the opportunity to get to Bass Pro Shops in Manteca, but was disappointed in their camping section. I probably would have done better locally, at REI.

I received word during the middle of the week that none of Zachary’s den would be attending the camping trip. In fact only about 15 boys (based on the website) and 16 adults were on the reservation list. While most were Webelos scouts, Zachary ended up being the “buddy” of Andrew, a younger scout directly across from our tent. It worked out well, I always heard Andrew saying, “I’m looking for my buddy.” Together the boys had fun and partnered with another boy and they played around the camp when we had down time.

When we rolled up to our camp site some 2.5 hours after leaving Oakley, I met the Cubmaster and her husband, as well as the Committee Chair, they gave me the lay of the campsite and said find a level piece of ground and set up your camp. Light was fading quickly in the Santa Cruz mountains, with a thick canopy of redwoods and deciduous trees around us. Our campsite went up rather easy, laid out the tent and pop, it was up and ready for use. The fire pit was about a 30 foot walk to our right, so I started our propane Coleman lamps for lighting in the immediate area and made decisions for dinner.

Zachary with Cubmaster Carrie, making crafts.

Zachary with Cubmaster Carrie, making crafts.

Cooking should have been simple, but it was more of a task because I did not bring a table with us, using the cooler as our table, where all our cold food was. I put all the dry food in a rectangular been, but when I was cooking I was in and out of these bins all the time, so a small table would have been ideal. Lesson learned. Zachary wanted to cook hot dogs and initially I was not going to bring any, but this food and s’mores are a staple on ANY camping trip and didn’t want to deprive him of the experience. He was responsible around the stove and didn’t burn his hotdogs.

Most of my food was prepared ahead of time. Thanks to Julie-Marie Christensen at Protective Diet, I made black bean chili, jalapeno corn muffins, banana bread, tortilla chips and salsa. In fact I made too much food for myself and I always seemed to be eating. Not to be left out, I also decided to buy a 4-pack of Field Roast Apple Maple Sausages (not PD, but I splurged). For containing no meat, these sausages were outstanding! Along with the table, I also forgot a pot to cook in, so I ended up reheating everything in a pan. Not ideal, but it worked. Lesson learned. Again!

As camp got dark we were invited over to the other side of the camp and the campfire for s’mores and some relaxation. The boys had a good time getting their sugar high on, while the adults talked amongst themselves. It felt great to just sit back, in nature and relax without a care in the world. Except for the fact I was not able to get a hold of my wife as we descended from Skyline Blvd, down towards China Grade, our turnoff to the camp site. I tried a few times and finally left a text message, but it would not be until Sunday morning, about 9am we would hear her. I did however received a text message saying, “Honey” but was not able to respond due to no cellular network at 1045pm on Friday.

Looking to score a bullseye in archery!

Looking to score a bulls eye in archery!

Sleeping the first night was challenging, I just barely fit in the tent and with very little wind through the mountains, it was sticky, hot. I opened up the tent to allow some air, but it was not much. Add to that, the air mattress had a hole in and by the time we climbed into the tent we were sleeping on the hard ground. Don’t think Zachary had much trouble falling asleep but I tossed and turned all night. Still it was nice to look to up at the night sky through the trees and fall asleep.

Saturday was a very busy day, it was supposed to start with a flag ceremony, unfortunately someone forgot the flag, so we had to pledge allegiance to one of the boys who had a flag shirt on. LOL. It works, right? After the pledge, we ate breakfast and waited for the range to open the BB gun range. This would be the first activity of the day, followed by archery a few hours later.

After all the hours of playing Call of Duty, Zachary was left standing, shaking his head, “Dad the sites on this BB gun are off.” LOL! “I shoot better if I am standing up, not sitting.” Okay, Zach, okay. Still, sitting down and firing two rounds of 25 BBs, he did very well. He was receiving some minor instruction from the rangemaster on the basics of holding and firing the BB gun. The biggest problem I was was his head/eye was really far back from the rear aiming piece, but with that said he still hit the target some 35 times!

Zachary's fort, a large, burned out redwood.

Zachary’s fort, a large, burned out redwood.

It was time for lunch and a short quarter mile walk, uphill back to our camp site. I broke open the black bean chili and jalapeno cornbread muffins, while Zachary had another hotdog and some tortilla chips, we also shared some banana bread. One thing I noticed during our meals, not enough variety. I forgot some juice for Zachary, so he was limited to water, hot chocolate or Gatorade. I planned on water and tea for me, which I was okay with. It would have been nice to bring a wider variety of food, but that is something for the next camping trip.

After lunch, we waited for the ranger to unlock the archery range and the rangemaster set things up. Archery was a sport that Zachary had never done, unless of course you consider his mastery with bow and arrow on the Xbox. Sorry kid, doesn’t count. He was in the first round of archers to take their place on the range, as all the boys were required to wear an arm guard to protect the forearm area, on the arm you were holding the bow with. I noticed Zachary put the arm guard on his right arm and I tried to correct him, but this is how he wanted it. To me, it was backwards, but for him it worked.

Each boy had 2 rounds of 5 arrows. Zachary let fly his 5 arrows and had 3 hits on the target. His second arrow was by far his best shot! Less than one inch from the bullseye and the arrow necklace the rangemaster was passing out to those who hit the center of the target. This would be his best shot of the day, which gave him a big smile and nice boost of confidence, but he tried too hard and shots seemed to get a bit worse. His third round he just barely grazed the target and left the range a bit frustrated.

Zachary on the BB gun range.

Zachary on the BB gun range.

It was early afternoon and there had been some talk about a 3 mile hike. Unfortunately it never materialized. The Cubmaster had seen a scout to check on the ‘Dern Trail’ that had a head new the BB gun range, but it was a dead end. This left the afternoon wide open and most all the boys played in and around camp. Zachary and I sat down and went through his Webelos book discussing some of the topics and marking off items we completed. We hiked a few hundred feet down the hill from our tent and found a walking stick. Back at our tent I started teaching him the basics of a knife, using my Swiss Army knife. He had some trouble with it and I told him I would not give him this knife or any other until he could demonstrate he could open and close it safely and have a basic understanding of how to use it. In the end, we carved some wood and he asked me to start working on his walking stick, which I striped of bark and attempted to smooth it out for him.

Zach and Andrew played around camp for much of the afternoon and I took the boys down to the pond, which had another group of scouts canoeing. While a group of Boy Scouts were “fishing” on the shore. The pond was very low from the look of it and the spillway appeared to have been dry for a few years with growth around it. We walked the pond and stopped with the Boy Scouts and watched them fish for a bit before heading back to camp as it was getting close to dinner time.

Saturday George and Lisa showed to up talk to parents about transitioning and supporting their boy(s) from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Honestly, listening to their talk got me a bit worried myself about making the jump. They put on a very informative talk, which left me with many questions unanswered. I don’t even know if Zachary will follow through to be a Boy Scout, time will tell, especially after I told him boys his age will be leading them and they go on camping trips at least once a month.

My PD compliant dinner. Thanks Julie!

My PD compliant dinner. Thanks Julie!

Dinner came and went without a hassle, more hotdogs for my son, but I sliced up squash, green pepper, zucchini, onion and Field Roast sausages and roasted them in foil over our propane stove. I know the sausage alternative isn’t PD (See Protective Diet), but this was camping and it sounded good for dinner and went very well with my roasted veggies. Amazing flavor in a meatless sausage, but it won’t be a regular meal, as it includes ingredients I want no part of including oil and wheat gluten. Still, dinner was a success and it was followed up by dessert, hot coco and roasted marshmallows for Zach and a few pieces of banana bread and jasmine tea for me.

I relaxed much of Saturday evening sitting next to our tent, watching the boys successfully light their own fire in the fire pit (supervised by adults). The poked the fire, ran around with their headlamps on had a great time in between their marshmallows. About 8pm, we joined Boy Scout Troop 98 from Livermore, near the pond, which had a small amphitheater as boys from 98 and Pack 1155 performed a few skits as entertainment. The night closed with a song and we headed back to camp.

As the weekend drew to an end I reflected on what I had been missing by not wanting to camp for 45 years of my life. Sure, the toilets were nothing more than a stinky hole with a metal bucket and toilet seat, there were no showers and the running water was somewhat limited. But that in part makes camping a wonderful experience. Being outdoors, realizing there is so much to do and see, not in the the US, but worldwide, if you just get outside and open your eyes. It was a great weekend to see none of the boys with their noses stuck in their Apple iPads or mobile devices, but learning, experiencing, competing and having a great time in the outdoors.


cutter05I know for a fact this won’t be the last time we camp, I am already looking at other overnight trips that Zachary and I could go on and once my wife’s back heals from her most recent surgery, the three of us can get back to nature as a family and explore this great land. Prior to leaving on Sunday morning, Zach and I made our way across camp to say goodbye and thanks to those leaders who set up this opportunity. It brought a small tear to my eye to hear Zachary say thank you to Carrie the Cubmaster with a smile on his face, as well as thanks to her husband, Todd, the Assistant Cubmaster, as well as Val, our Committee Chairperson. The drive home was fun, talking about what we experienced the past few days and we look towards the future and some more fun outdoor adventures.

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*queue up Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas*

isshinryuIt was never my intention to take up karate after getting my son involved after a 6 week special for $79 at Oakley American Karate last October, where they teach the Isshin-Ryu discipline. This was actually to provide my son an outlet for physical activity, while providing a strong emphasis on discipline, respect, goal setting and perseverance. I am very proud of  what he has achieved since starting, attaining his gold belt in December and subsequent orange belt, last week.

After watching Sensei Bright teach for 2 months, I was convinced I knew the basics and what to look for as I attempted to help Zachary train at how to gain the required stripes necessary to achieve the next rank. He didn’t want to listen because, “dad you don’t know karate” was the answer I usually got. While he is correct on some level, close observation and listening to what Mr. Bright was teaching provided me a good foundation, which I had hoped to share with Zach to make him a strong student.

We discussed it and I told him I was going to start karate, not as a competition, but to complement him and work together towards the ultimate goal, the black belt. Perseverance and dedication are two words that come to mind, along with practice something he isn’t to keen on, unless it comes in the form of console of PC games.zach_karate

Time and time again I have attempted to tie the electronic world to that of real life situations. In order to gain confidence and get better, practice is required. I might have turned him off to some degree with managing little league, wanting him to practice more in order to succeed. Karate is much the same vein, unlike little league, karate is an individual competition, where you must work on continually improving yourself.

I started in the adult class the first week of December and stepped on the mat with confidence, knowing I had a good foundation, yet still felt intimidated by “adult” students, some who were a third of my age, but years and ranks (belts) ahead. Yet, I went in with the knowledge that I was not competing with anyone but myself.

It was my hope that enrolling in class would give my son the reassurance that I knew what I was doing and we could benefit from each others help, especially as he gets older. I would not be surprised if he was kicking my ass in a few years as he grows, something I will be to be wary of. It was with that premise that I started working toward my own black belt.

gold_beltOn Thursday I tested for my first rank, that of gold belt. The early belts teach students the basics; punches, kicks, combinations and self defense. This is the foundation on which Isshin-Ryu is taught at Oakley American Karate. Students advance from white to gold, orange to blue before getting into the more challenging green and brown belts that require more study and practice in order to advance within a given rank. Red belt is the final step before testing a student to become a black belt.

Much like some of my other personal challenges, such as running long distances or attempting an Iron man Triathlon, I now want to achieve a black belt before I am 50 years old. That would make Zach 14 (possibly 15) if he sticks with it that he could be testing for his black belt. As I work toward orange belt I look forward to the challenge that lies ahead. Hopefully together we can achieve greatness through karate, while learning fundamentals that can help us through life.

For those who now have Kung Fu Fighting playing in their head…enjoy!

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No Batteries Required

IMG_20140903_182832September is here and it’s been very busy. School is in full swing and we are already staring at the fall break at the end of the month as well as progress reports. Zachary has suddenly gotten busy with soccer, which is about 3 games in. Scouting just had their first pack meeting last night and now add I write this I am watching him perform karate.

We are still trying to find him a niche that doesn’t require a controller. He is a matter at the Xbox, but we don’t want him sitting in front of the TV for hours on end. So far our weeks are busy. Soccer had 3 practices a week with games on Saturday. Friday practices are optional but we try to stress him to attend to get the most out of the sport.

Scouting is a family event and I am sure my wife will join us at pack meetings and some of the outings. I took on the role of quartermaster for the pack and have a lot of training I am looking forward to. No word on our first den meeting, but the will be on Tuesdays, twice a month.

Finally there is karate! A flyer came home last week and my wife wasted no time in calling American Karate. Zach and I stopped in paid the intro fee of $79 for unlimited sessions through October. After that point it’s $99 a month for two sessions a week. It seemed to be a bit Joe and miss today while we were discussing it.

He didn’t like the fact he didn’t know anything when he stripped onto the mat. It’s trial by fire, as he is learning as he goes. Just moments ago he tested for hiss first yellow stripe for reciting the karate creed. I’m proud of him!

Hopefully karate will teach him some life skills; discipline, confidence, respect, integrity, honor, just to name a few. Unlike the other sports he had played, karate solely depends on the effort he makes. Looking forward to see him grow.

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First Victory!

baseballIt took nearly 4 months and 18 games, but my AA Braves of the ECLL celebrated their first victory on Saturday. While I won’t say our team is “peaking” it was a great feeling of accomplishment for the boys. the coaches were thrilled that the hard work and effort they have given us over the course of the season finally paid off. Even with a 2-16 record (1 win by forfeit) we still make the playoffs as the #1 season, which was decided upon prior to the start of the season by pulling numbers (seedings) out of a hat. Just so happened I pulled the #1 seed, thus we will play one of the top 2 teams in the league (based on win/lose record).

The victory for me was somewhat bittersweet, as I was left to act as scorekeeper yesterday during the game. While I remained positive after the game, we didn’t play off that well. It was more that the other team hurt their chances to win by the number of walks they allowed in 5 innings, which hit double digit. This has been our problem all season long because a walk can turn into a triple in just 2 pitches, as no catcher in AA can make that throw to second base. That fourth pitch, a ball that goes past the catcher ends up scoring the runner from third base.

While I managed the substituting of players, I was not my normal, vocal self with shouts of positive reinforcement and encouragement. I left the coaches to my coaches. As the game progressed, I was more frustrated with our lack of hitting, again. It’s amazing to watch these boys hit during practice, all of them swing a very aggressive bat and have done so since we started practicing back in February. Come game time, the bats go quiet. Good, aggressive swing go to hesitation and many bats being left on the shoulder resulting in a backwards ‘K’ in the score book.

Yesterday we had just 3 hits in route to our 16-6 victory over the struggling Red Sox. No team should be winning with just 3 hits, in fact both teams committed more errors than hits. Part of the reason is their age (7, 8 and 9 year olds), still learning the game and not really quick enough or strong enough to make a stop and long throw from shortstop of third base, for example. Our coaches were very aggressive on the base paths, taking base after base, an act I have not been too supportive of all season since I believe “stealing” (if you can call it that) doesn’t teach the player anything because catchers can’t make the throw to second base. Yet, nearly every team takes advantage of this in AA, resulting in high scoring games.

This concludes my first year managing competitive little league in the ECLL. Plans are to manage next season with two of my coaches who joined me this season. This time around we will be involved in the entire process, from tryouts to the draft, unlike this season.

While I am not conceding the loss in two week, the boys have their work cut out for them this week in practice. They will need to work just a bit harder and be that much sharper in order to be prepared for whichever team we face. Both teams scored 20+ runs on us the last time we played, but the positive side is we were in both games through about 4 innings. After 4 innings we struggle with consistent pitching.

Win or lose, I am very proud of all the boys I have managed this season. They have learned the fundamentals of the game of baseball and hopefully have become people based on how we have taught them this season. At the start of the season my philosophy was to develop the player and the person, hopefully I have lived up to what Big Al taught me in his coaching clinics.

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