I’m the last of our team to compile this list. As someone who keeps a low profile, this is a bit uncomfortable, but here goes.
1. After I cried during a first-grade math test, numbers and I were estranged through high school. An A in college statistics restored hope. I saw numbers doing something useful -- solving real-world problems. Becoming a competent SAS user is on my bucket list.
2. I can moonwalk.
3. Carowinds gave me my first job. Loved. It. I spent two summers running the cable cars that whisked guests from one side of the park to the other. For three years, they let me run roller coasters, including White Lightnin'.
From my perch in the driver's booth, day after day, I spoke “Lightning…strikes…NOW!” into a mic. "Now" was the cue for me and a ride attendant several yards away to push buttons that catapulted riders 0 to 53 mph forward through a single loop.
After a free fall backward through the loop, the train clattered back through the station, slowed on the raised back track, then rushed forward to an abrupt stop.
Some riders threw up. Some even made it to the exit ramp. So I gained valuable life skills, such as mopping up messes, cleaning restrooms and emptying trash cans.
White Lightnin' fans: last I heard, our favorite coaster moved to South Africa's Gold Reef City, where it operates as the Golden Loop. For old time's sake, take a spin, compliments of YouTube.
4. I was a newspaper reporter for eight years before joining SAS. Covered town councils and school boards, mostly. Some assignments are unforgettable, like Steven Spielberg filming "The Color Purple" in Marshville, N.C., riding a hot-air balloon and interviewing Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.
The brush with Hollywood came right after I graduated from Wingate University. I looked forward to learning the craft of journalism in a quiet Union County town, but that wasn't to be. Days into my new job at the Union News & Home, we heard rumors that Spielberg had bought out all the businesses on S. White Street for several months so he could transform it into a movie set. I was on the phone to a Hollywood casting agent to find out who would be in the film. He took my call, but refused to answer my questions.
Everything came to light before long. We saw Spielberg tooling around town in a Chevette, his long hair spilling out from under a fedora. There were sightings of music mogul Quincy Jones and actors Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg. And a then-obscure Chicago talk show host named Oprah Winfrey.
5. In the early ‘90s, two-time Olympian Jack Bacheler was my running coach. Not because I was all that good (my best 5K is 18 minutes 30 seconds), but because he loved the sport so much, he generously shared his wisdom with anyone committed enough to show up for all workouts and do what he said. All of my personal records were during his tutelage.
In the photo, Jack's the tall one on the left. The other fellow is Frank Shorter, a marathoner whom Jack coached to a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Jack placed ninth.
6. At a running camp in the N.C. mountains, I won the award for Most Comedic Fall. On a steep single-track trail, my toe caught a root, sending me airborne. I hit the ground and slid on my belly. Witnesses said the momentum flung my legs almost perpendicular to the ground. I staggered to my feet. Both knees were raw, but no bones were broken. Blood streaming down both legs, I ran the last two miles.