29 December 2010

Aftermath of a White Christmas

Yesterday I went for a snowy bike ride and today I went for a snowy run, and I was tickled to follow my own tire tracks down the trail.

Maybe the only cool thing about lingering snow is that it works almost as a census taker. In town you call tell who doesn't drive very often by the sheets of snow on their cars; some people have pristine yards, proof that they either don't have children (or a sense of child-like wonder) or that their children were too preoccupied with new Christmas video games to bother with sleds and snow pants.

In the woods you notice that for some reason Upper and Lower Sycamore are the most heavily traveled trails; that lots of people are trying out their shiny new hiking poles or xc skis; that there's some fascinating carcass or excrement down below Mountains-to-Sea that has all the dogs investigating; that only one person has been dumb enough to ride Grassy and she was running a Captain in the front and a Sauserwind in the back. Best of all, you see evidence that families make full use of the forest--and each tiny set of bootprints trudging behind grown-up size steps, with paw prints dancing in and out among the human, is a little love letter to Pisgah.

12 December 2010

Photos Found

So here's the best cx race ever, in Unicoi, TN. Some of these are messed up because the camera was on a weird setting.
I was having a blast. If these were bigger than thumbnails you could actually tell.

The setting was very pretty. If you squint you might almost think we were in Colorado or something...ish.

Before and after. The Era has about ten extra pounds of grass/mud weight.

This was before T Cowie stopped having fun.

And that's all I got. Mad photo-documentation skills? Check.

10 December 2010


the days and weeks continue their inexorable march and i have failed to document them. after each race or "race" i attend, i delay blogging in the hopes that i will come across a photo or two to adorn an otherwise stark entry...and every time my search fails. the world wide web does not deign to acknowledge my existence.
and so a month has passed.
in that month i poached a couple of tiny cross races to make money while skirting anything challenging for the most part...except for hendo. my first ever uci race and LORDIE was i outclassed. i stayed strong the whole time and didn't piddle around moping about my poor performance, so that's something. fighting tooth and nail for 19th place is a new and humbling experience. plus, uci races require FOUR NUMBERS, UGH, so needless to say i'll be avoiding them in the future.
i would like to get into cyclocross shape, but suddenly it's december and the season seems to have passed me by. now i'm getting a bit amped about next season, despite all my protestations about "retirement" and such nonsense. i just bought a sram XX crank for my sweet baby dinosaur and am close to puking with excitement about it--nicest component i've ever owned, sexysexy industry nines aside.
have you ever seen anything so beautiful? i mean, besides my bike.

of course, st marie heard about my purchase and upped the ante by ordering a couple of new carbon xc bikes and a dh bike, so......dick move.

what, you're still talking about that? here's proof that i actually did the shut-in, although my face is lying. it says: 'i am taking a merry jaunt in the woods,' while my brain says: 'i can't feel my left leg and this was the worst idea you've ever had. i hate you. i'm going to sleep now.' pic by paul christopher.

cross in tennessee. there are better pictures hiding somewhere and i'll post them, but for now believe that it was veryvery muddy and veryvery fun. not pictured: me slipping and sliding around on a full suspension, grinning from ear to ear. also not pictured: t cowie eating it in a race that consisted of him, himself, and he.

i am also all a-tingle about next year because (and understand that my plans are entirely fluid and liable to change) so far scheduled:
santa cruz in january, to visit my cousin and ride as much mtb as possible
saint pete in march, to hang out with caitlin and do silly florida things like drink wine on the beach at night...in 70 degree weather...
crete in june (and maybe london beforehand), to play archaeologist with some of my favorite bc professors.

more proof that i am deferring 'life' in order to live.

08 November 2010

And Now, Without Further Ado...

Before delving into my own personal sufferfest, I want to extend high fives to other people in this long weekend of sufferfests. Here's a vague high five to everyone who raced that marathon in New York or wherever, and to everyone who did the Iceman, which looks super stupid, and to all the loud and encouraging spectators who swarmed the Shut-In. A very specific couple of high fives to Jenna and Lydia for being wonderful volunteers on the deserted, snowy Parkway. And a whole round of "up highs" for all my friends who crushed the Swank. The KOP proved that he will probably get faster every freaking year until he is eighty, Geoff B got fourth with a broken rib, and Derek finished strong on three different bikes, which tickles me to no end.

Confidence, which is supposed to have all kinds of miracle uses and magical results, has never really done good things for me in competition. Whether it be soccer games, XC meets, or bike races, I perform best when I've achieved a subtle blend of grumpiness, pessimism, apathy, and disgruntlement. I approached the Shut-In feeling prepared, eager, and confident of success, and just like those malignant clouds over the mountains, I should've known this peppy optimism did not bode well.

Dear Julia: Fear me. Love, the Parkway

No, I can't really blame the awfulness of the experience to some abstract concept like a good attitude. Contributing factors included: the cold; the cramping; the coldness of my calves; the coldness of my water; the coldness of a single GU lodged in my gut, which kept me from eating anything else the whole run.

All right, no more excuses. The Shut-In was very hard, very painful, somewhat rewarding, and veryveryvery beautiful. Even as I zombie-staggered up the brutal final two miles, sobbing from oxygen debt and hating the panting progress of other runners as they passed me, I couldn't help but notice the sun piercing the snow clouds, and the glitter of the frost-laced puffs of weeds lining the path. If I had to die the dramatic, absurd death I was envisioning for myself, at least I would be in heaven on earth.

Oh, and to everyone who said, "Beat Baker Bill,": not even close. He had a great race and beat me by ten minutes. Despite falling apart, I did meet my target of a sub-4 hour finish (which I realize now was not an especially lofty goal).

A less than rosy experience after the finish did not help matters, but eventually we escaped the sub-freezing windy venue and returned to real life in the valley below. It's kind of hard to walk now, but safely ensconced in my warm bed, I am (as usual) forgetting that promise I made to myself during the last ten miles: "Never again, never again, never again."

Maybe again.

The view from the top (images courtesy of Ian Hilley)

04 November 2010

Four Weeks in 500 Words or Less

i'm settling into life post-college quite nicely. apparently all i ever wanted was an ambition-free, responsibility-free existence. it's possible this pleasant floating sensation won't last, but for the time being i'll enjoy my leisurely breakfasts, relaxed work schedule, and the occasional late night out.

the shut-in is in two days. perhaps after this weekend i'll give that a more in-depth treatment, but i've shirked a couple of race reports now, so:

at the tree shaker 12 hour sycamore cycles had a mighty showing, taking first and second in the three-dude team category. kwood, derek and i had to battle to the final hour for that podium spot, but in the end we got it. third place was well aware that they had been chicked.

some bakery patrons are still congratulating me for the collegiate team's showing at tahoe, and i have to gently remind them that although i WISH i had been there, i was slinging pastries while the kids racked up the stripey jerseys. i am super proud of them, especially captain america and tina.

i joined a posse of brevardians in boone this weekend for halloween festivities, downhill races, and some cross. i registered for the cross race to spite myself and i never stopped complaining, from the time i woke up until i pinned on my numbers. (two of them! ugh! nccx, it's like you HATE me!) by around thirty minutes in, when i remembered how to ride a bike and decided i was comfortable with my eighth place position, i started enjoying myself (sort of). it sure didn't compare to last year's second place, but it was the most encouraging crappy finish i've ever had.

and now those familiar symptoms, in remission for two years, are quietly regaining strength. hill repeats? carbon forks? series points? UGH! cross fever is like malaria...once you've caught it, all the quinine you take can't hold it at bay.

baker bill informed me that his sole purpose during the race was to make the course markings his bitch.

05 October 2010

I'm Hungry

The Shut-In is looming.
These days I've got some good options when I want to hit the trails. On runs with my dad we explore the epic ups and gnarly downs of Pisgah. When I go running with Joh, we (subtly, with great nonchalance) try to bludgeon each other into submission. When I'm on my own, I do long loops on the old faithfuls and get lost in my thoughts. Today I did the Big M backwards and forwards and only came into contact with people twice; I skirted the work crew on Sycamore, then ran into T Cowie and T Had near the end. Squirrel had only a few, oft-repeated words of wisdom for me: "Don't forget to eat and drink." He knows me so well.
During the hours of vaguely addled solitude, I decided to name all the different ways that I go downhill. What follows is an unabridged compendium of all my descending styles.

1: The Rag Doll:
All about gravity, feet flopping and arms flailing. I do the Rag Doll down steep, wide open
descents. It's like running it WFO on a bike. It's the fastest way to run but the feet take a beating.
2: The Real Runner:
This is less of a free fall than the Rag Doll. This style uses more muscle for braking and control, and actually pay attention to where each foot goes. Better for technical downhills and hurts less.

3: The Jackalope:
This bounding style is ideal for thick, soft surfaces like mud, heavy leaf cover, and especially snow. It's crazy fun but only works when there's something to catch and cushion each foot fall.
4: The Holy Sh*t:
I reserve this cautious half-run half-walk for only the scariest, most ridiculous rock faces,
boulder fields, and slippery switchbacks.

5: The Prairie Dog:
'Nuff said.

25 September 2010

The Long-Awaited Worlds Pictures...

...All five of them (in no particular order):

Here we have the "chicken line" on the XC course. So-called by the course official, in heavily accented English. I fell off my bike about a foot after that last pointy rock.

RACHEL! WOOO! She may not have claimed a podium spot but she claimed my heart.

The 4x finish line. Please note the oodles of people, if you can note anything in such a poor-quality pic.

Lookout tower on the top of MSA. Dramatic clouds, scattered showers, panoramic view of the St Lawrence River and adjacent mountains. Delicious.

Trials is weird. And fascinating.

07 September 2010

So, Worlds

[I promise there will be pictures, as soon as St Marie gets his rear in gear.]
We took a much less stupid way back so the drive home was quiet and uneventful. Not a moose to be seen. It was still eighteen hours in the car though, and when I wasn't listening to old mix CDs from high school, eating goat cheese, or guffawing along to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I thought about the weekend. And concluded that it was kind of the most awesome thing ever.

Friday saw lovely weather and a sprinkling of rain, just like I'd hoped. Suddenly traction everywhere was tacky and ideal. Armed with a map and several sandwiches, we set out from the B&B for a long ride. A bike path, the wonderfully named Marie-Hélène-Prémont Trail, connects the town to the mountain. Once there, we were expecting more of the same thing we had ridden Thursday: tight, loamy, challenging, delicious. Turns out the trail rating system at MSA is a wee bit perplexing. Sometimes "Très Difficile" means tricky singletrack and sometimes it means brutal fire roads that go updownupdownupdown without providing any real sense of accomplishment. Regardless, it was a good ride and left us time to watch some XC and some trials (weirdest discipline ever).

On Saturday the weekend's festivities were amping up. The crowds were huge to watch the elite XC races. As we wandered through the pits we brushed by a veritable bevy of big names in mountain biking. I feigned nonchalance when I saw Melissa Buhl, Aaron Gwin, and Irina Kalentieva, but when Gee passed all I could do was stop and stare. St Marie regretted not wishing Adam Craig and Carl Decker good luck as they stood beside us to watch the ladies blaze through. I probably won't ever be inured to celebrity spottings--it took me hours to recover when Steve Martin stopped by the bakery, and he doesn't even ride bikes!

The women's XC race got me more worked up than anything else, I think. Watching Willow duke it out with the Euros and Pendrel was crazy intense and St Marie had to chase as I sprinted all over the course trying to get the best views. The best part was yelling "North Carolina" at Willow...I got to say hi to her after the race and through the red mist of competition she actually heard the shout-out!

The men's race was a success because Burry got a medal, but the US guys sucked it up, and anyway I was saving my voicebox for the night's 4X race.

Oh. My. God. Most insane awesome bike race ever. Words can't even express. The best part was watching chicks hit the huuuuge doubles, and seeing the Czech edge out Jared Graves in the final stretch to take the win. Then we watched the music from a hillside overlooking the venue as the light show illuminated the low-hanging clouds.

And there was still more. On Sunday we elected to ride the entire XC course to see if it really was that gnarly. And yes, yes it was. At the Rock Garden (which everyone spoke of as if it were capitalized, because it was so ridiculous) I took a hard tumble on the chicken line and struggled with the tech stuff for the rest of the ride. I do not envy the racers. Then we splurged and got lift tickets up to the top so we could scope out the whole DH course. I yelled for Rachel like there was no tomorrow, but the crowd saved its loudest love for Steve Smith, the Canadian who took a surprising second after Sam. Then, suddenly, it was over.

At frequent intervals during the car trip, unable to contain my glee, I would turn to St Marie and say, "That was the coolest thing ever." Pause. "That really was totally awesome. What a good freaking idea." He offered little in the way of disagreement.

And that was the story of my trip to Worlds. Soon to be augmented with pictures.

04 September 2010


We're staying in a bed and breakfast in Sainte-Anne de Beaupré and ever since we booked a room, I had been looking forward to it. Working at the Red House gives me a peek into a magical world of luxury where other people stay in clean, beautiful rooms, return every evening to fresh towels, and enjoy delicious breakfast served by a charming, sunny woman and her tall English husband. And entry into this world is only around $100 to $200 a night.
So I kind of assumed all B&B's shared these fantastical qualities.
But in Beaupré we were greeted by a fat, sweaty-looking woman cradling a shivering rat-dog named Yoda. Without offering a smile, she informed us that we could not check in until five and had to find something to do for the next two hours. Fair enough. Then it got worse.
The house was filled with kitsch and clutter. At breakfast (a tawdry spread made better only by coffee and homemade crepes) the proprietress laid down some more laws. We had to pay for a three night stay in (foreign) cash. We had to vacate the house from one to five, which required that we kill a whole lot of time in chamois up at the mountain. One to five in the afternoon was her "cleaning time" and yet upon our return our room was untouched--no fresh towels, unmade bed, no trash removal. We shared a bathroom with the second floor guests, accessible only by a creaking attic staircase. And when I fearfully requested an earlier breakfast on the final day, I was shooed away with a brusque "non".
I am not really, really complaining--after all, we still had a nice bed, edible breakfast, and a place to shower after each day's ride. But at the ATM, withdrawing a wad of Canadian twenties, I reflected that I don't usually pay to be bossed around. At the Red House we are flexible to the point of obsequiousness, but here the Saint and I found ourselves trying to placate this large, unpleasant woman. It has been une expérience étrange.

02 September 2010

Up North

Aside from an unplanned detour through Manhattan (and yes, we played "Empire State of Mind" like the dorks we are) the drive was uneventful, if excruciating.
On Tuesday after three hours of sleep at my grandparents' lovely New Hampshire estate we ventured out to Bretton Woods in the hopes of riding some good singletrack.An hour later, hopes shattered, we reemerged from the network of cross country ski trails--rough, weedy doubletrack--and investigated the resort's ski slopes. Two fools on bicycles, we climbed the never-ending and painful service road up the slopes and found nary a trace of the "black diamond bike trails with manmade features." But as we bitched and braked down the mountainboard course (stupid), a ladder ride tucked in the woods caught St Marie's eye and we had finally found singletrack. Tight, rooty, loamy. Very much like the slopes down south. We returned the next day and St Marie applied his big bike to the job of finding more black diamond rides.
While not biking in the great white north, I've been trying to recreate the summers of my youth--cookouts at Camp Jack, swimming in Burns Pond, shows at the Weathervane Theater. Unfortunately, it was difficult to fit six summers' worth of nostalgia into two days...and so we headed north again.
Pancake breakfast at camp, just like the good old days

Mont-Sainte-Anne was everything I had hoped and more. The venue is crawling with competitors, vendors, and spectators speaking not-American and riding around anything from massive DH rigs to tiny alien trials bikes. We rode a few trails and part of the XC course and I loved it! The mountain is covered in a foot of moon dust and corners are loose as poo. Perhaps racers will escape without experiencing that wonderful east coast mud...but I'm hoping for rain.
Now I understand when people take pictures of Euro-drops and then say "It's a hundred times worse than it looks." Because they are.

29 August 2010

This Post Has No Uniting Theme

i believe this is what those in the know call a "photo dump". i take very few cell pics, but some always find their way onto the phone.

looking for the captain? well, he's in a train depot in montana, if you can believe it.

still life with cheap meal. house-sitting, leftover wine, excellent omelette.

the shake weight does in fact exist. it is located in the impulse buy section of your local walmart, right next to the mountain dew and cigarettes!

sometimes i babysit this kid. he is awesome.

the children are back in school and while i don't envy them the classes, or even the races, i miss the camaraderie. therefore they must forgive me if i sometimes encroach on their company, because i still secretly want to be (somewhat) involved.

on an unrelated note (because books are rarely related to college), i am part of the way through a really good book right now. it's called the story of edgar sawtelle. i wouldn't even mention it, except that i have suffered through a string of inane, cliche-ridden, poorly written books recently. after finishing three or four books that were disorganized, weirdly humorless, or way too esoteric, i checked out simply divine, which was so full of awful puns i finished the second chapter and promptly returned the rag to the library. summer may be a time for crap books, but i want good crap books, thanks. anyway, hallelujah the drought has passed, but here's my problem: when i encounter a compelling, well-written novel, i devour it. mothers around the world advise their children to chew before swallowing, savor the flavors, make sure that beef doesn't get lodged in your throat honey. mothers would despair of me. i am so not a savorer, not of food nor of books. i eat too fast, and i read too fast, skimming big clumps of glittering prose until suddenly i'm at the end and i've missed half the point and i'm kind of out of breath.

the point is, we're driving to new hampshire tomorrow. and then onward to quebec! and i've packed a bag full of really good books and by gosh, i will savor them, because it is a very long drive.

11 August 2010

Road Ride

joh talked me into an early morning road ride today and in retaliation, i suggested we do big hill instead of the rosman loop. i woke up four minutes before go time so i set off with an empty stomach but there was a warm apricot brioche tucked safely in my jersey pocket protecting me from hunger. it was cool and clammy as we pedaled our lazy way through the fog. going up walnut hollow, we both agreed, was only a few degrees less painful than giving birth. as "retired professional athletes" she and i are mellowing into a lifestyle of less fitness...for now, anyway. my game plan is to roar back onto the scene at around age thirty, which is when women become effortlessly fast (or so it seems).

questioning our mental stability, we continued on east fork and puffed up the rollers and switchbacks. somewhere in the middle of nowhere i remembered once again that i. love. climbing. climbing is the only reason i ride a road bike. no matter how out of shape i am, i would much rather dig into the pain cave than spin around on boring flats.

we arrived back in town with sweaty smiles and contented limbs, and plenty of time before work. i think i like morning exercise, although i always spend the first fifteen minutes feeling like i'm going to vom.

the kids are going back to school in less than two weeks and i'm not sure how i feel about it (besides smug). will i miss the routine and occasional mental stimulation? will i long for the heat of collegiate battle? will i browse through exorbitantly expensive textbooks and think, "if only..."? will i become so desperate for scholastic status quo that i start applying to grad schools and studying for the GRE?

ugh. not likely.

04 August 2010

Ode to Self-Propulsion

forgive the silence, i've just been living life.

my days are equal parts work and play. there's the daily grind of BMB or B&B but after work i can traipse off and partake of the feast of fun that surrounds us. running, painting my toenails, bike riding, playing with puppies, reading everything i can get my hands on, slip'n'sliding, eating yogurt and lots of fresh veggies, watching roller derby, and spending time with people i really like.

the best part is that i can continue this trajectory for as long as i want. there's no deadline, no requirement that i return to "real life". there's nothing propelling me in a direction i don't like.

running has become a favored pastime recently, despite cloudbursts, bug swarms, and stifling humidity. it feels more like floating. the racing schedule for this fall is looking less bicycle, more bipedal:
august 21: springmaid splash 10k
september 18: hickory mountain 10k
november 6: the shut-in

meanwhile, the next great adventure is a trip up to mont-sainte-anne with mon st marie. i definitely plan on touching rachel atherton.

fingers crossed there will be a repeat of '08.

12 July 2010

Love Letters

Dear public transportation,
I love you. I've returned home to the south and I think I miss you most of all. More than Galbraith, prehistoric ferns, shellfish, bike lanes, or huge mountains. I found myself up poop creek without a paddle a few times and you bailed me out on each occasion. Never mind that I had to walk miles to reach you, carrying my luggage every step. Never mind that you cost me money. You are still awesome and convenient and while I understand that Brevard is not very welcoming to you, I wish we could be reunited here.
The person that spent a lot of time with you

Dear Andy,
You are amazing and cute. I'm sorry about your brother, but you've still got the magic. Kick ass.
Your number one fan

06 July 2010

Coming to an End

Hood River is a great place. Tina and I rode at Post Canyon, which she described (with some derision) as the Bent Creek of Oregon...I couldn't complain. Smooth, fast tabletops, switchbacks, and berms are something I don't get enough of. Then magically the dusty trail opened up into what felt like a remote mountain meadow. I loved it. 

After our ride we enjoyed some excellent music at Double Mountain Brewery, then watched fireworks over the Columbia River. God bless Uhmerica. 

Short track on motocross course=painful, ridiculous. I will say, Portland's race scene is something to aspire to, but the thirty minutes of heckling, tutus, and mud reminded me that I am really, truly not interested in racing right now.
And now it's one more day on the train, one more day in Bellingham (hoping to watch some Tour at Mount Bakery, just so I can gaze upon the younger Schleck), and a long day on the plane. Big thanks to Tasha and Alexis for their hospitality and good times. 

04 July 2010


Alexis, Tiffany, and I are heading out to Hood River for some bicycle riding so here's a quick recap of the past few days. 
-I finally fell in love with Galbraith on my third ride because I discovered the wealth of awesome not-freerider stuff the mountain has to offer. 
-Circumstances dictate that I won't be going to Canada at all this trip, which is pretty disappointing. 
-Hopping the train to go to Portland felt like coming home. I love trains now. Especially because the nice people at Amtrak let me stay in Portland an extra day at no cost. That means tomorrow: moto short track!
-Yesterday was beach day. Oregon has very pretty beaches.  
-We availed ourselves of Portland's excellent bus system to check out the massive blues festival going on at the waterfront. After wandering through crowds of tripping hipsters and nutty old people we found a great band for dancing, and proceeded to do so for three hours. Love. 
-I am SO over traveling for now. Looking forward to settling back into the comfortable (and MUCH CHEAPER) routine at home. 

Bennett and the beach

30 June 2010

Now That I'm Here...

So Bellingham is pretty cool.

I've ridden some at Galbraith (which is essentially the mountain just for mountain bikers), once with Tasha and once with Angermeier. It was fun, and scary, and left me with some bruises and a deep longing to learn the trails well enough to get comfortable. Each trail is a lovingly-built masterpiece of tabletops, berms, and the occasional ridiculous wooden creation. Needless to say, in the dark, primeval forest the baby dinosaur felt right at home.The trailhead of Scorpion. We totally sessioned this feature...not.

The food and drink are fantastic. In the short time here I've sampled coffee from every shop I could find, sipped raspberry mead and old vine zinfandel, eaten sausage and gruyere crepes, exquisite sashimi, and salmonberries off the bush, and had a chocolate croissant that almost rivaled one from BMB.

The term "bike friendly city" has been bandied around a lot in recent years but I never really got it until I came here. Bike friendly is wonderful. Every street has a bike lane, every shop has a place to lock up, and most importantly drivers are aware of and courteous to cyclists.

Tomorrow we're off to Vancouver, and Tasha has a friend who knows some good Canadian trails. Bring the gnar.We ventured up Mount Baker as far as the snow would let us. It was beautiful beyond words.

26 June 2010

The Cascades Were GORGEOUS

...as were the macchiato and lavender shortbread with which I rewarded myself in Seattle.

I Beg to Differ

I ate breakfast in the high desert of Washington. My seatmates this morning were a xenophobic middle-aged man obsessed with Japanese beetles, a doughy horse woman wearing a scrunchy, and her deaf, grumpy mom. A vapid lot.
I almost came to blows with the horse woman. (I've met many doughy horse women and can't speak highly of any of them.) She announced with pride that the Washington peninsula was the only rainforest in North America. Just to make conversation I mentioned that my area rivaled hers in annual rainfall.
"No, but the peninsula is an actual rainforest. Except without like poisonous frogs and stuff." Her beady eyes were filled with smug certainty.
"Yeah, a temperate rainforest. That's what we have too..." but I trailed off. Nothing good ever came of a cyclist arguing with a horse person, even if it was a matter of hometown pride.The doughy horse woman hurried to inform us that this was the Columbus River. She was a very knowledgeable lady.

After Days of Flatlands...

I had almost despaired that it would be dark before we reached the scenic part of the trip. The sun was slung low on the horizon as we slowly crossed the plains and foothills fronting Glacier National Park.
But somehow, magically, the sun never seemed to set. We meandered through the snow caps, evergreens, and plunging whitewater and I was thrilled to spot a double rainbow over the mountains. It grew dark just as the train left West Glacier, and although I slept through the Rockies, I'd had enough beauty to last me until the Cascades.

25 June 2010

On Odor and Obesity

I have two seats to myself and my only complaint is that with my proximity to the dinette, every time the door opens an unpleasant processed odor wafts in.
When Jeremy-the-dining-car-manager announces mealtimes, groups of chunky beef-fed Midwesterners hustle past me to check out the chef's special. All I see in their rush are pale hairy calves and flapping t-shirts that reveal acres of back fat.
I'm not one to talk though--my feet have grown puffy from days of inactivity, and I smell a little like a concession stand.

The sky is a pleasant distraction.


I've grown fond of--almost possessive of--the "ladies' lounge", an antiquated avocado-green antechamber where I can stretch and brush my teeth and bemoan my greasy hair in private. The lounge even has booth seats and its own bathroom. Even better than the lounge is the observation deck, with huge windows and a snack bar. This is where people go to get drunk.

Today I made my first foray into the dinette. I had avoided it thus far because it was pricey and filled up fast, but I'm on my longest leg, with no Charlottesville pancakes or Chicago reubens to tide me over.
I was seated with three travelers from the sleeping car, which (according to the elderly San Francisco gentleman to my left) was comparable in price to flying first class. So, I knew my place among my breakfast companions.
Small talk ensued and, as often happens with strangers, coincidences started popping up left and right. We were all northern California natives. The Montana couple, whose matching cowboy hats contradicted their WASPy mannerisms, were well-versed in the field of pediatrics, as was the San Franciscan. But then the world got really small. I revealed that I was a college grad from NC.
"What school?" the woman asked.
"You wouldn't know it, it's tiny."
"Try me," she pressed.
So I tried her, and lo and behold, her daughter graduated from Warren Wilson. And won the downhill race at the '07 nationals in Banner Elk.
"Shut up, shut up!" I could barely keep myself from saying.
It was madness. We talked about her daughter's decision to run mud spikes because of the abysmal weather, about how Warren Wilson is doomed to be ever the bridesmaid, about the great comraderie among the teams of the dirty south, and best of all, about the questionable hygiene and trademark funk of Warren Wilson kids.
It was a good breakfast.

Recent flooding has plagued the Midwest, leaving everything green and delicious. Today I watched the sun rise over the waterlogged fields of Minnesota.

23 June 2010

Dear Amtrak: You Are Wretched

(But I forgive you.)
Amtrak lost my reservation not once, but twice. The first occasion was weeks ago, when Julie-the-automated-Amtrak-lady rang me up and left an ominous message telling me that I had to call her as soon as possible. Because phones make me quake in fear, the Saint took care of it for me and reminded Amtrak that I did actually exist and did actually have a reservation.
And then we rolled into Greenville late last night and...you'll never guess. Once again we spent almost an hour convincing the company that I was not a ghost or specter. (It's like that Stephen Crane poem...I said to Amtrak, "Julie, I exist!" and she replied "However, the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.")

So that was kind of appalling. And the station was filled to capacity with crazies. Two stereotypical New York hens gabbed ad nauseum while Lee the OCD station attendant (and Jessco White look-alike) sashayed around with his can of Mountain Dew and engaged his customers in conversations right out of a bad screenplay. Fortunately the trip has been relatively painless since then. And checking a bike on a train really, truly does cost a mere and magical five dollars. I'm in Charlottesville in the Blue Moon Diner killing time until my 1:00 connection to Chicago. They gave me a pancake with Dwight Schrute's face on it, so I can't complain.

If you look closely you can just make him out under the pat of butter.

Then I was about to pack up and wander back to the station and they turned on the World Cup! I am swimming in coffee and very content.

21 June 2010

Headed West

summer in b-town has been delightful so far, but my wanderlust finally overcame me and i booked a train trip. i was unable to hit up montana as originally planned, so it'll be a straight shot to bellingham to visit my shoe twin. fingers crossed there will be some vancouver/whistler action sometime during the stay, and i'll also spend a weekend in portland with tinaalexiscarolinedecosimo.

ever since i laid out my plans, i've heard nothing but bad stuff about trains. they're slow and unreliable, they're cold, they're boring, they're only one step less sketchy than the greyhound.
ok, but still. i want to see the whole country and i don't want to drive. we shall see how it turns out. i leave tomorrow and i am mad excited, and damn the naysayers.
oooo lookit them mountains!

this trip will also serve the purpose of helping me narrow down options for a possible location change. it's going to be SO hard leaving the wonder spot that is brevard, but i have to get out of here eventually.

the pacific northwest may not be what i'm looking for. i was perusing the weather channel and was deeply disturbed to see that b-ham is not only rainy (not surprising) but also chilly (somewhat surprising). i had to recalibrate my sun-addled mind and remember to pack a few long-sleeved shirts in the place of my myriad of sundresses. ugh. please, no one say "i told you so".

hopefully i will manage a few pictures and words during the long...long...long voyage...stay tuned.

07 June 2010

all that?

it hasn't been an eventful summer
hence my lack of posts
and pictures tell it better anyway

of course there's been a lot of this

and a good bit of this but i've also indulged in a little bit of this
possibly a bit too much of this
and not nearly enough of this
and pretty soon i'll be getting a whole heaping helping of this

15 May 2010

Really? You're How Old?

So today I graduated summa cum laude, which is a feat I never, ever would have accomplished at Carolina. After stuffing my face with Pepperidge Farm cookies (yeah, BC keeps it classy--no generic shortbread for us), I rewarded myself with a Coontree run in a thunderstorm. I enjoyed it so much that I turned right around and ran it backwards as well. I tried to turn my adventure into some kind of poignant metaphor for graduation/life, but such lofty ideas eluded me and I was occupied with much baser thoughts. Mainly, that schoolwork is an awful lot like doo-doo.



I couldn't stop coming up with similarities between bowel movements and schoolwork. Both are best accomplished in one sitting, and both are greatly expedited by coffee. I often refer to paper-writing as "pooping one out" because the process is fairly uncomfortable but ultimately satisfying. Both essays and excrement can come out pretty awkward-sounding if you try too hard, and there are grave repercussions if you don't submit on time. Meanwhile my hated nemeses, presentations and group projects, are more like explosive diarrhea: quickly done, with a shitty final product.

The worst part about this scatological reverie is that I could glean no deeper meaning from it. I made no revelations about life, I just ran along giggling about poop and chiding myself for being so gross. I guess it all boils down to the simple fact that I am so glad to be done with all that crap.

08 May 2010


Sort of, anyway.
I met my secret goal of a top ten in the crit! Ninth place. I felt awesome and raced real aggressive, but the chips just didn't fall the way I wanted them to...at the finish I was begging for another thirty minutes.

On the front, pedaling through corners...I'm just not a smart racer.

Elk Killer, master of consistency, scored another 17th. I can't say he was pleased about it, because he is a helluva sprinter, but ah well.
The Saint is watching supercross right now and probably doesn't want his results broadcast. St Mariiieeeeee........

They're cute.

So my final collegiate race was a success (and the best result BC has ever had at road natz--sad, no?) and now I have nothing better to do than ponder my future. Oh lordie.

Also, Madison was lovely.