Thursday, December 30, 2010

Frozen forest & waterfalls

Crabtree Falls, in the George Washington National Forest, is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi and is one of the "hot spots" in popularity for hikes in VA.

Ash and I have tried to pick the less trodden locations to explore when we have planned trips in the past, but we were looking for a close day hike for Christmas break. Our logic was there would be considerably less folks out in December after a major snow storm rolled through the area.

So going on a close friend's recommendation we decided to check out Crabtree Falls.

The hike for the falls trail is approximately 1.7 miles up and back.

Another curious thing about Crabtree Falls is that it's considered to be one the most dangerous waterfalls in the country with 27 deaths including 2 this year.

Almost all of the deaths were contributed to people leaving the trail and falling from the rocks which are covered with a clear super slick algae.

The cool thing about water falls and freezing temperatures is that you get some pretty wild formations of ice and snow which contrast with the crystal clear fast moving water.

 The ice created multi-colored hues of blues and grays mixed with brilliant whites.

The path leading up to the top of the falls is groomed and maintained to a point that Ash & I felt like we were at a theme park instead of a national forest which is a testament to how many visitors the falls attract.   

That being said, several sections of the trail were rendered nearly impassible by large areas of ice flow.  

{Looking down on an ice covered section of stairs on the trail}

Crabtree was perfect for a day trip, and the winter season was a great time for me as I tend to shy away from crowds and regularly take measures to avoid them. 

For me the tragedies that permeate the history of the falls tend to overshadow the beauty the location has to offer.

As I gazed at the frozen falls I couldn't help but think about the young lives that have been lost over the simplicity of trying to get a "closer look" or were the result of a good natured dare.

Because of  my background I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about and researching the concepts of risk vs chance.

Crabtree falls serves as a tangible reminder of knowing the difference between the two.  


Monday, December 27, 2010

As the dust settles

Christmas blew in and back out quicker than the snow storm that blanketed the east coast over the Holiday weekend.

As the dust settles I think about the wicked cool gifts I received while I try to keep in focus the true meaning of things.

I'm not launching into a Christmas bashing commentary, just an observation and a way for me to keep myself in check during the holiday season.

One of the gifts from my wife was the book "Where Men Win Glory" by John Krakauer. Its the story of Pat Tillman who walked away from a promising career in the NFL to join the Army after 9-11. He ended up being killed in a "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan.

On the subject of exceptional people, some you read about, others you have the privilege of meeting in person.

Christmas eve found us visiting (if only for a while) with an incredible lady who is the personification of positive thinking and overcoming tragedy. I would hope I could be as strong in the same circumstances, but I can say with conviction that I would never want to be tested in that way.

If you aren't lucky enough to be surrounded by these kinds of folks on a regular basis, but happen to meet one in passing, pay attention to their story, as it will remind you of whats important, and to never take for granted the ones you love.   
Next up on the holiday check list;
New Years...

A brief moment of reflection in the hectic holiday season...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Rolling into the parking lot of what has become my “go to” place to ride and run, my mind was filled with a sense of wild expectations. The last two weeks were filled with obligatory 5:00 am wake up calls and very little personal time. While I absolutely loved what I was learning and doing for the past few weeks, my riding had to take a back seat, that’s just the way the hand was dealt.

So the fact that I was going for a ride at all was awesome, the fact that the ride was going to be in the snow was even wilder.

I don’t run snow tires; in fact I don’t change a thing. (Sometimes when you sweat the details you miss the point entirely).

The trail was a mix of crunchy fallen leaves, frozen loam, and icy turns where the sun had yet to reach, the well trodden paths were clear, but a quick flick of the bars took me to a few spots where the knobs of tires had yet to leave their mark.

After an hour of “hike a bikes” up the steeper sections and slip and slides back down I was ready to call it a day.

What type of dinner is fit for a post winter ride?

 It’s never too cold for grilling out, (as long as you have a good down jacket) and our decision for a Sunday night seafood extravaganza let me run wild with my faithful Weber.

I roasted freshly chopped garlic in olive oil then mixed it with sriracha, which was drizzled over the gulf shrimp with pepper and basil.

Add a pound of scallops with sea salt and pepper to the mix, and it was a perfect grilled compliment to Ash’s Coconut Curry Mussels.

                                                         A great way to start the week.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Yule Tide Libations

A handful of craft brews for the holiday season 
Samuel Smith's "Winter Welcome Ale"
77% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would give it a 70% because nothing really stood out about it as a whole, but still a good beer.
English Strong Ale
Stone Brewery "Double Bastard" Ale
100% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would give it a 90%,  lots of flavors going on, and a strong citrus tone to it. Reminded me of a belgian 
11.2% ABV
Allagash Black Belgian Style Stout
98% overall user rating at Ratebeer
I would agree, roasted flavors, with a hint of alcohol at the finish. Good stuff
7.3 Alcohol/Volume   

Winter Walks In

"Cold but dry", that is the verbiage used repeatedly by the forecasters for the impending winter months that are now upon us. The experts pointed out that we would not experience the same snow fall as the previous years where multiple storms rolled through VA dumping loads of the white stuff.

So as I awoke this morning and sipped coffee while I surveyed the frozen landscape of our yard and surrounding woods, I couldn't help but wonder if the forecasts may be "slightly" inaccurate.

"This may also explain the inordinate amount of  acorns that littered the ground in November" I thought to myself...

In a week's time the area had sustained two separate winter storms with a third threatening for the weekend, "dry indeed".

Mind you I'm not complaining, it's a excellent way to usher in the holidays and winter break.

Here's to you winter...


Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tis the season...for porters

I picked up 2 of my favorite Porters and one I had yet to try for the beginning of the Holiday season.

A perennial favorite of mine is Fuller's London Porter .

I seem to gravitate towards the oatmeal stouts and porters and really enjoy  Highland Brewing's Oatmeal Porter.

My newest addition was from  "Old Dominion Brewery", who make an awesome "Burbon Barrel Stout",  so I decided to try the brewer's Baltic Porter as it is described by the company's web site;

Dominion Baltic Porter is brewed to meet your need for warmth on a cold winter’s night. Hints of licorice, toffee & chocolate mingle with a touch of Rye giving our Porter a full-bodied taste. Raise your mug to those who were bold enough to brave the Baltic!
•6.8% Alc/vol
•German Pilsner, Crystal & Dark Specialty malts
•Pairs well with grilled meats, hearty stews & even chocolate
•Serve in a mug or pint glass at 45-50ºF

I definitely got the licorice and toffee tones and the beer paired very well with a friend's venison barbecue at the Christmas party.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Dashboard Lights

The wind whipped down 5th and Franklin Streets like a winter messenger delivering the first day of December.

We had been here before, for whatever the reasons, we have many memories that either started or finished at the gates leading into "Penny Lane Pub".

In fact many years ago I went out on a limb and told Ash that I was going to marry her after 2 weeks into our relationship.

Prior to my revelation to her, I had built up my liquid courage at Penny Lane.

This pub is no ordinary place, and it would do you good to read their history.


I actually frequented the pub's first location when I lived a stone's throw away.

So last night under the twinkle of christmas lights hung across the bar, Ash and I shared pints and some good conversation.

We settled our tab and we were off to the "National", a local live music venue a few blocks from the pub.

A few years back Ash and I got married at a cabin in the mountains, and when we danced, (and we did dance). A band called "Dashboard Confessional" was on the play list, because to be frank, the music moved us.

So Dashboard Confessional, or the brainchild behind the band, played the National last night.

No, it's not my normal type of music, but anything done with honesty, integrity and feeling these days is alright by me.

And Ash danced...In a sea of statues, Ash danced...And it took me back to those same feelings that made me take a risk so many years ago, and the fact that I know I made the right call.

In a few more years when we renew our vows, you can bet that Dashboard will be on the play list.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A comedy of errors leads to a brisk walk in the woods

Ash and I decided to take the dogs on a morning trail run Saturday, sounds benign enough right?

Get your running gear, add dogs, and go run…

Little did I know that a ridiculous chain of events would hinder our plans by at least an hour as life managed to chuck multiple curve balls our way before we ever left the driveway.

Scene 1: Some of my running gear was in the trunk of my company car, easy enough right? Unlock the vehicle and grab the gear…Nope! Battery is dead, easy fix right, grab the jump box…Nope; jump box won’t start the car…Easy enough right? Grab the jumper cables…

As I’m doing battle with the ornery company car Ash commences in bringing the dogs out to load up…which would make sense if we weren’t slowly drifting into bizzaro land, so now the scene begins to look like a chaotic ballet as I’m backing up the SUV with the hatch swung open, as Ash tries to hustle the pooches back into the house to protect them from the gravel that I’m throwing up from the driveway with NASCAR sensibility…

Yeah crisis averted!

Scene 2: We load Ramsey (our newest Blue Pit bull) into the back of the SUV when I notice a tick on her ear. Mind you that it’s been in the low 30’s several times where we live, but yet there he is in all of his blood sucking parasitic glory munching on my dog’s ear.

No problem, right? I will grab the First- Aid bag which is ALWAYS behind the seat of the 4-Runner…except this time, Were in the HELL is the First-Aid bag???

As I proceed to unpack my company car and sling all of my gear into the driveway (enough gear to fill a Ford “Festiva” bumper to bumper) looking for the First-aid kit, Ash runs back inside to try and locate same…

Shortly thereafter Ash returns with the elusive med kit as I’m thinking to myself, “Thank god I’m not bleeding to death”.

Scene 3: We have successfully tweezed 100’s maybe even 1000’s of ticks off of our dogs without ever having an issue…SNAP! Off with its head! Son of a bitch! The next 20 minutes or so were spent tweezing, and looking, and tweezing, then looking… Get out of the light! I’m not in your light! Tweezing and looking…

Oh yeah, then we went for a trail run, and I only fell over once with Ramsey dragging me down the trail.

It was fantastic, and it was such a gorgeous day we decided to go again this morning.

Ash rewarded me (for what I still don’t know) with fresh caught grilled Rock fish in a crawfish crème sauce over quinoa.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Ride

As I loaded my bike onto the SUV Thanksgiving morning I repeated my inquiry to my wife for the 5th time, “Are you sure there’s nothing else that needs to be done”?
She reassured me with her normal laid back composure that we had made every effort to make the house and curtilage ready for Thanksgiving dinner the day before, and that a ride was just what I needed.
The weather was mild with gray skies creating a muted backdrop to the orange and brown hues of the fallen leaves on the trail.
As I climbed the switchbacks from the creek to the top of the hill I had to “dab” once in the exact same spot that has vexed me the last 3 times I have negotiated that section of trail.
This was frustrating to me because I have cleaned this trail many times before and my recent lack of riding was painfully apparent.
At the top of the hill I paused to readjust my gear and check my GPS for distance.
3 miles in 20 minutes was the pace that I had rode, so I decided to back off the throttle a bit and maybe snap some photos.

The double edged sword of photographically documenting your adventures is that it seems like a narcissistic endeavor to snap photos of yourself, and I can completely understand this thought process.

That being said, I am an extremely visual person, and I find that the combination of descriptive words with photography really helps to paint a picture for someone who wasn’t there.

Within a split second of me landing this log hop I missed my pedal and it slammed into my shin tearing a good gash into my leg.

As I put my last 2 miles in I passed what I assumed were a father and his teenage son on the trail having a blast together on the single track.

Sometimes it’s almost as if you can measure a person’s character without having ever spoken a word, and I thought to myself that I would aspire to be a similar father should the occasion ever arise.

At home I explained to Ash that the trail had given me a Thanksgiving “souvenir” as I cleaned my wound.

Shortly thereafter my wife’s younger sister showed up at the house and commented about the severity of the injury.

In trademark fashion, Ash responded by saying that it was a “regular occurrence” in our household.

It wouldn’t be long before our house was filled with the laughter and conversation of our family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together.

For a recap of dinner check out Ash's post here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The shape of things to come

As the last few months flew by I wrestled with the idea of scraping the blog, mainly because I was feeling uninspired for the most part.
I have been dealing with a reoccurring injury in my left ankle. I would estimate that I have been nursing it for the long end of 4 months.
The injury has had a demoralizing effect on the consistency of my running, riding, and anything physical in nature.
My wife is a cool chick, and she has supported me and my incredibly hard head as I put off getting the problem fixed over and over again.
But sometimes thing don’t just magically “unscrew” themselves, and instead of waving their wand, the healing ferry that you were waiting for says “piss off”.
After the 3rd time that we had to modify our plans because of the fact that my ankle would not allow me to carry a 30 pound pack into the wilderness I decided to get off my arse and do something about it.

I’m no stranger to injury and the running list is as follows;
-Broken left hand
-Broken left wrist
-Separated shoulder
-Separated other shoulder(mildly)
-Bruised or cracked ribs
-Stomach surgery (small gremlin or gnome living in my innards)

So it should not have came as a surprise when the Doc told me that my MRI indicated that there was some room for improvement, and that the extra bits of scar tissue and bone spurs should probably be removed.
So I’m going to start the New Year off with surgery on my ankle, and I’m looking at a six week recovery…
But if it gets me fixed I’m all about it, and the cool thing is I took a shot of cortisone which has greased me up and allowed me to pick up the pace right before the holidays.
So I made a deal with myself, I’m going to keep posting and hitting it as hard as I can until I’m laid out with the wifey feeding me grapes.
There are some exciting things going on around here, and I want to share those experiences.
Here’s a bit of a preview of what’s to come…
-After we lost “Blitzy” our beloved Pitty, we reacted just like any well adjusted grieving family would; we adopted 2 more Pit Bulls! More to follow on those girls.

-I love gear; I’m a “gear whore” as they say. Look for reviews of gear in the coming months.

-Rambling editorials, because who doesn’t like raving opinionated freaks that hide behind their laptops as they fire shots across the bow of subjects that probably don’t matter in the first place.

I’m excited about the holidays, and all the things that have yet to come.

Jazz Hands!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August & Everything

A state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
Mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.

August was a shining example of how work can completely dominate your existence whether it is self inflicted or the result of serious miscalculations about manpower at the managerial level of your chosen profession.

Whatever the case may be, rest assured that when you drop a pebble into the water the ripples will continue for some time...

To put this drivel into a more visual context I offer the following;


Not a Mountain

I know what you’re thinking, as I can also hear the world’s smallest violin rising to a crescendo.

So long August, you sorry, hot, nasty, mofo...

I have made a conscious decision to treat September like an extended holiday and get back to the things that are actually important.

Balance...Yeah, for sure.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Walnut Creek

The idea was born early on in the week; we would go somewhere different, unique, a departure from the normal “Tri-Cities area” ebb and flow.

After the slug fest that was to be a Monday through Friday knockdown, drag out, kick in the ....well you get the idea, we stuck to our guns.

After dinner Friday night we loaded the 4-Runner with the bikes and come Saturday morning, we were pointed down 64 towards Charlottesville.

We rolled into Walnut Creek in Albemarle County about 50 minutes later...

View from one of the numerous "Frisbee" Golf holes

Map of the ride

Ash on the tilt

Short rock garden at the end of a fun down hill section

Bridge over murky water

Right after I took this photo a troll chased us up the hill throwing mushrooms and shouting obscenities

Back to your roots; I only have one wisdom tooth and it's trying to come in,(true story)

Single track flow

Echos of our Ancestors...

Sunday, August 1, 2010


In cadence we pedal, drifting in and out of the turns, the sound of near silence is deafening in its own right, breath and body in accord, we spin through the switchbacks setting the tire on the perfect line as we pass between the trees.
A hint of dew brushes my arm as we weave through the pine needles, a fawn, brown and white speckled, joins us for a moment before darting into the camouflage.Even the hills are obliged to let us climb up and over, on and on, down the trail we flow.

After ride eats;

Marinated Flank Steak Omelet with mushrooms

Grilled Mussels with red & green peppers, onions, and garlic in a Guinness broth.


Highland Brewing Co St. Terese's pale ale: 66%
Terrapin Beer Co Hop Karma Brown IPA: 92%
Troegs Pale Ale: 93%
(ratings at ratebeer respectively)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A hazy shade of single track

I was out the door and on the road by 5:30am, and as the 4-Runner’s tires rhythmically hummed down the highway I tried in vane to shake the cobwebs from the night before and wondered what was driving my inability to wake up for the morning commute downtown.

Just as I hit the interchange from I-64 to I-95 the unmistakable thumping of Peter Criss’drum beats began resonating in the speakers and the volume knob immediately got dumped to the right.

“I love it loud” by KISS and with it came a flood of imaginary coolness that I couldn’t possibly ever hope to achieve, yet while in the throngs of the moment, I was indeed transformed into one cool mofo.

I parked inside of the depressingly drab gray deck at work and its empty walls echoed as I rolled down the ramp to the street below.

After a few blocks of asphalt and concrete I was coasting down hill on 2nd Street to pick up the trails off of Tredegar, and as I lined up to slip down the grass hill a female runner who was moving in the opposite direction muttered what I believe was the phrase “Hoo-hah” as we passed.

It was then that the morning haze gave way to a much larger intramural group of exercise enthusiast as they “Hoo-hah’ed” along the way.

I managed to slide by the masses and across the Belle Isle foot bridge so that I could pick up Buttermilk trail and do a loop back to North bank.

The bike squeezed down the narrow path adjacent to the CSX fence and I came in contact with a young guy at the base of the concrete stairwell who was clearly out of sorts as he stared blankly at the graffiti laden walls of the stairs.

“Zombies” I thought, as I continued down the gravel road.

I drifted deeper down Buttermilk as the canopy of trees filtered slivers of morning light onto the trail casting strange obscure shadows on the roots and rocks.

Any hopes I had of making the loop clean dissolved as I made repeated errors on sections that I simply refused to commit to.

The trails at JRPS are something to see if you have never bothered to wander downtown around the river, and the trail crews have done and continue to do some amazing things with the trail system.

North bank dumped me out under the Lee Bridge and I made the climb back to work amongst the droves of people slowly meandering along the way in traffic

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Rooster's Beak"

So I arrived home Monday evening with far too much energy to burn and an overwhelming urge for fresh Pico de Gallo (translated from Spanish to mean “Rooster’s beak”), in addition to my Hispanic culinary cravings I was also armed with the knowledge that my wife and I had previously decided to defrost some chicken breast this morning after our 5am “wakeup call” run.

As you read along it may not occur to you that in our house it is almost impossible for me to wrestle control of the kitchen from the “dinner Nazi”. Granted she delivers some of the most extraordinary morsels that a man could desire, but with that being said, I have been chased out of the kitchen by a spoon wielding maniac on more occasions than I care to remember.

OK it’s not actually that bad, but the “lady doth rein supreme in the land of cookery”, and that I mean with the greatest of sincerity.

Anyway, back to those Mexicans and their culinary creations.

When Ash and I lived in the posh West End we would “do Mexican” maybe twice a month, and don’t get me wrong we enjoyed it, but at some point we decided that we could probably create our own dishes with half the calories that you would find in the average Mexican eatery. (Was that an entire bar of Land O’ Lakes butter in my fajitas?)

This was certainly an evolution, and as such is still a work in progress to make food that taste great but with significantly less fat and using fresher ingredients.

So here is what I came up with, and yes I actually figured it out all by my lonesome.

Mojo marinated grilled chicken breast with a sweet & spicy black bean sauce that was comprised of black beans, caramelized onions, fresh garlic, jalapeno peppers (from our raised garden), and freshly diced tomatoes from Ash’s good friend’s garden near Charlottesville. The sweetness of the sauce was achieved with brown sugar and honey.

I paired the Pico De Gallo (all fresh local veggies) with whole wheat tortillas pan fried in olive oil.

A cold Legend’s Pale Ale and dinner was good to go.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gone but not forgotten

Christmas 2005, she was curious but cautious about her new home but anyone with a shred of insight would have noticed that she immediately took to my now wife, then girlfriend and the unbreakable bond which was set as if it had been etched in stone.

In a time when cynicism, doubt, and criticism of their kind permeated our culture, we stumbled forward clumsily with our “outcast”.

Me, my girl, and my dog...”Blitzy”

We weathered the storm of not being allowed to bring her around my brother’s children, and the looks of disdain we received from strangers when we announced her breed.

We were even advised that American Staffordshire Terriers had an “Evil gene” that predisposed them to violence...

I say that we “heard it all”, but the reality is that their comments fell on deaf ears, because we made a promise to make our decisions about Blitzy based on love, faith, and understanding of something that was often misunderstood.

As the years passed we became inseparable, and Blitzy accompanied us always...

I say always not as an exaggeration but as a fact,

Grayson Highlands
Portsmouth Island
Our wedding on Claytor Lake...

Through it all, Blitzy was our constant companion.

Adventures aside, there was the simple satisfaction of her always being there waiting for me after work, tail wagging, running to pick up her bone, the scene never got old in all the times that it played out.

But time took its toll as it always does, and on our last camping trip to the island we realized Blitzy simply wasn’t the same.

It’s one of those things where you know it has to come, but you’re never prepared when it does.

I could see it in her eyes as she drifted away that she was happy and unafraid to meet her maker.

We buried her body near the trail she loved to run, where the early morning sun would shine like so many times on her pink belly in the past.

There is a chime in the tree over her grave so that when the wind blows it will remind us of our times together.

Hardwood floors are made for the paws of pit bulls, and it’s awfully quiet in the country tonight...

We love you Blitzy and we miss you so.