Introducing My Super Bestie Neil

There is a new book out by Lydia Denworth called Friendship – The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. Lydia explores two main questions: how friendship works and why friendship works. It turns out that it may be life’s most important bond and actually improve our evolutionary fitness and chances of survival. I am thankful that I have such a great friend in Neil – my super bestie.

Neil is going to hike the first week of the Appalachian Trail with me so I wanted to make sure that you were properly introduced. I met Neil in 2005 while we were on the same swim team. We were desperately into triathlons back then and he was the only person that I knew that wore a heart rate monitor in the pool. Like me, Neil is a gear junkie. We spent the first few years buying all things absolutely necessary for a successful triathlon: power meters, carbon fiber bikes and wheels, aero helmets, computers and those weird drink holders that strap onto your handle bars.

When we ran out of things to buy for triathlon we started adventure racing together. All of the above was purchased but specially designed for mountain biking. No, really – they are TOTALLY different. I bought things I had never heard of like portage wheels and map cases.

Adventure racing led to scuba diving and there just isn’t an end to the amazing stuff you can buy for this. Wetsuits, drysuits, more computers, regulators and BCDs. Tec diving is the next big plan and we have our purchases planned out for the 12 months. It’s a problem but a great one to have.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for Neil. He is also into climbing, fly fishing and welding. He also takes excellent care of his gear and is ready for any adventure. If we need to invade somewhere, Neil could be ready in 20 minutes. Seriously.

Neil is also such a great friend because he is practically unflappable and that will be a great buddy to have for the first week of hiking. It’s a perfect temperament for his chosen profession. Neil does high-end renovations for the Decatur elite and this is a very special group indeed. Generally friendly and polite but boy they want it their way. Neil calmly responds to things that would drive me crazy. Last minute picky changes that require a tremendous amount of work. He really just has one answer. “No problem. I can get someone out there next Tuesday.” I just didn’t think he could be pushed too far – until recently.

We drove down for a scuba dive trip last week. It was a long haul from Atlanta to Jupiter and we got to our campsite near the beach pretty late. It was a nice flat spot in a quiet section of the campground and I jumped out of the truck and started setting up my tent. Neil hesitated a bit – walked around the site a few times and then back and forth to the truck. He says, “Huh, where are we going to set up?” There as a large open sandy area that was a perfect spot for our tents so I wasn’t sure what he meant. “I’m just going to set up here on this nice soft area – looks great.” I could see the wheels turning. He was in panic mode but trying to keep it in check. Desperate for an alternative, he said, “Well, maybe we don’t need to set up both tents.” That’s when I understood that I had found Neil’s kryptonite. Sand in his tent. “Man, I hate sand in my tent,” he finally admitted. He pushed through and we had a great trip but that wasn’t the last I heard of it. I know for certain that the poor guy stayed up late the night we got home and got every single grain of sand out of that tent.

I’m pretty sure the campgrounds on the trail don’t have sand but I’m going to make 100% sure. What are friends for?

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