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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Moving On

Anyone who rides, and who has put in more “sweat equity” than most, have come to the same cross roads at some point in their life.

It’s the time when that once magnificent build that you poured your heart and soul into creating has simply ran its course, and although you have held on through the years and been its faithful companion, you realize that it’s time to say goodbye...

Everyone has their individual reasons why, and while I hope that it’s not because of the idea that “all that glitters is gold” and the bombardment of newer, better, plusher and faster, the decision to move on has been made none the less, and to each their own.

My decision to retire my 2003 Rocky Mountain Slayer is quite simple in that respect, and it boils down to the fact that I don’t enjoy it as much as I once did.

Simple right?

The saving grace is that my Salsa single speed, “Selma” has given me something to grin about in the short time that I have had her, and while I can’t put my finger on the exact reason “why” I know that now is the time to let go of one while embracing the other.

While I realize that it’s just a bike, anyone who has made the same decision also knows that it’s so much more.

The final ride was short but sweet, and the ribbons of sweat that poured down my face were a visible cue that the last ride wouldn’t be what the bike deserved, but that it was all that I could give.

And so it goes,
But never say that they don’t have soul...

* (What's a ride without lunch? Grilled kabobs with turkey sausage, chicken, pineapple, peppers, onions, and tomatoes).

Friday, July 16, 2010

The river “James”

The current moved us steadily away from the bridge where we had first put in, and the dull drone of commuter traffic slowly faded into the back ground as it was replaced by the sounds of the river as it bid us good morning.

One of my close friends and I had made a pact earlier in the month to play “hooky” from work and replace the normal grind with a float down the James river.
A modest trip filled with long stretches of flat water was what we had envisioned, and the 13.5 mile stretch of river between Maiden’s and Watkins Landing fit the bill perfectly.

Surveying the glint that was already filtering onto the surface of the water I advised my friend that “the temperature was supposed to reach 99 degrees today”...

He responded with, “true, but it’s always a bit cooler on the water”, it’s the city that gets too hot, and it’s because there aren't enough trees”.

As I tried to wrap my mind around my friend’s assertion, I was only able to develop a single conclusion...

It’s true; the City doesn’t have enough trees...

That was the extent of our joint pontifications, as we were both comfortable with the idea that the river float was more about being quiet and drinking in the surroundings than ruining the trip with needless banter.

Great Blue Heron

Butterfly conference call

It took us about 8 hours to lazily paddle down river and explore some of the small islands that dot the James as it winds towards Richmond.

A few fish here and there, and as a thunderstorm rumbled in the distance, we loaded up our gear and headed down the road...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chasing Black Beard

A stormy history continues...

The wind whipped up grains of loose sand that peppered my face as I drove stakes into the ground in what would ultimately become a feeble attempt at securing the awning that we carried with us for shade. Ash steadily snapped photos of the storm front as I smugly secured the camp site for the evening. “That should hold” I thought to myself, “besides, we have crossed this path before, it’s just a thunder storm”...

Fast forward to 3am the next morning, the tent began to shake and rattle but nothing that would cause alarm; the guy lines were secure and dispersed the weight of the wind as it whipped around the tent. Then came the rain, not just any rain, and while it’s hard to describe this kind of rain, rest assured that it was comparable to what one would envision if they were camping under a waterfall.

I sat up "Indian style" on my Thermarest pad and observed the fact that “Blitzy” our 60 pound Pit-Bull had wrapped herself around me with her head in my lap apparently cowering because of the deafening noise of the rain beating down on the tent, “She’s not afraid of anything, this is so weird”, curiously enough, Ash was sleeping comfortably beside me with the notion of "I can't do anything about the storm now"...

Ash was right, and the storm kept coming, between the flashes of lighting I tried in vain to see through the walls of the tent to get some measure of what was going on outside. “Damn, we are downwind from the gear”, I grabbed my “Osprey” pack and stood it up between us and what I assumed would be the flying debris from the camp site to give us some protection from projectiles. A strange whoosh noise left me wondering what had taken flight in the pitch black night.

Finally the rains dissipated enough to where I felt comfortable enough to stick my melon out without worry about receiving a head wound.

I stumbled outside to find the awning had totally failed. To give you some idea of what I mean by total failure, it looked as if a giant took his hand and "palmed" the camp site into the sand. Nothing was spared, as everything got a piece of the action.

Ash and I spent the next few hours regrouping...

As is always the case, the sun rose the next morning and we reconfigured the site to accommodate our needs. This was day one of our trip to the island but we were rewarded with one of the most relaxing and romantic ventures we have yet to take.

Sunset over the sound

July 4th on an East Coast beach without another soul in sight, remarkable

Red wine by candle light

While any fish of note continue to elude me, my hopes of filleting a fresh catch then throwing it on the grill are only part of what makes this place so special and why we are already scanning our calendars for the next trip.