Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


With both the gig and the race in the books, Toys and I retrieved to Earlysville to tone down the pace and take in Charlottesville on a more even keel. Charlottesville can be a bit of a labyrinth until you get to know the place so over the next few days, Toys spent a good deal of his time reading the map while I read off street signs, and scouted for on ramps and exits.

The payoff for this, however, are some of the country’s most significant historical monuments as well as some of the nicer terrain this side of Denver. We visited Jefferson’s home at Monticello and took a day to drive the southern strip of Shenandoah National Park (No. 28 on my list!). Much to my amazement, Monticello, built in the late 1700’s, was basically handicapped accessible and even cooler, we ran into two bears up in the mountains.

Even if we’d never left town we still would have been spoiled by the University of Virginia’s Rotunda and Lawn, the Charlottesville City Courthouse, or even Murphy’s Pub where Dave Matthews made a name for himself. I really can’t think of any city its size that gives you more bang for your buck.

While Toys and I were gallivanting about the town like tourons, Dan was at work getting emails from Phuntsok Dorjee, the head of the new community radio station in Dharamsala. I’d put that part of the trip on hold until after the race, but now it was front and center. And the Tibetans were saying, “Yes, we’d love to have you.” This pulled the odds closer to 95 percent that I was not going to return to Oregon, but fly to India from D.C.

Toys, however, was not going to India and his time on this roadie had come to an end (aside from a 12-hour trek back to Wisconsin). It was really sad to see him off because he was as excellent a road trip partner as one could ask for. Nothing really phases the guy (he was dead calm when shooting a photo of a 600 lb. black bear) and he always brings reason to whatever kind of chaos the rest of us can muster. If you ever come across a friend like that, I suggest you travel across the country with them and play music together. It works out famously.

With Toys on his way back to Wisconsin that left me with a few weeks in Earlysville to create and knock off a monster check list for India. We also had to come up with some scratch to pay for my ticket. It’s cheap enough to live in India once you’re there, but getting there can run you up. I thought Dan was going to tap on his list of Tibet supporters for some funding, but he made just one call, to brother Bagus. Bagus didn’t even balk at it. He just asked for my bank numbers and within a week, I was shopping for tickets from D.C. to New Delhi.

As all this was taking place I was being treated like a king in Earlysville. Besides the daily feasts, Dan built a nice ramp up his front steps; I had a huge room to myself and a bathroom that was almost completely accessible. It was a huge room, very easy to get around in, only lacking in an accessible shower. I thought I had that solved by setting up a green plastic patio chair under the showerhead. But when I made the transfer from my chair to the shower, the legs on the plastic chair split like Bambi’s legs on ice (or on my windshield, which ever image you prefer).

The last time I’d spent any time with Dan in a non-manic situation (read: Christmas!) was nine years earlier when I shared the city of Dharamsala with Dan, Zoe and three-year-old Tashi. Tashi was the star of that show and people in town declared her the second most famous resident next to His Holiness. She used to chase cows and sit in my room laughing her teeth off at the daily monkey gymnastic show. Fast forward to 2009 and you get the older version. She may be the most responsible 11-year-old I’ve ever met, yet she is always up for mischief. She’s a very conscientious student and reads whenever she can, but she also lives for sleepovers with her friends who giggle long into the night. Every night after she did her homework, the two of us returned to the kitchen table for some kind of game. We played card games, board games and even invented a couple games. But mostly we spent the time laughing.

Meanwhile Dan and Zoe were singing to eight-month-old Tristan so he would get heavy eyes and fall asleep. But he usually had nothing to do with their tactics. He looked over at Tashi and I playing and wanted no part in an early bed time. This, of course brutalized Dan and Zoe who both have heavy work schedules and tend to like to stay up late anyway.

Aside from being a mother, wife and employee, Zoe is one of the world’s most consistent bloggers. Her work paid off when a local news station’s ‘blogging expert’ discovered her work and decided to make ‘Vale of Evening Fog: Notes from My Twilight Realm’, their blog of the week. It’s an extensive blog she’s been working on for the better part of five years. It’s full of travel stories, poems and pictures (check out these crazy winter Charlottesville pics ).

Early one morning a camera man came to Earlysville and filmed Zoe while she was making an entry. He asked her a few questions and it all seemed like a non-event until the 6:00 news when they made her the biggest story on the news. They teased it through three segments before the blogging expert called Zoe a ‘blogging celebrity’ who is constantly stopped downtown by her fans!

Although her work deserves the accolades, the celebrity angle may have been a bit of a stretch. But Zoe just rolled with it and announced, “You guys can stay here with Tristan. I’m going downtown to let my fans buy me beer!” It was easily the highlight of my stay in Earlysville and more than anything it distracted me from the fact that I was actually freaking out about moving to India for six months.

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