31 December 2012

The Holidays

This Christmas was my first away from the bosom of Brevard, but circumstances convened to make it a very special one. On one snowy night the roommates gathered to decorate the tree and listen to the Nutcracker Suite. My folks sent me a loaf of stollen so I could nibble it and drink tea and miss the frenetic rush of holidays at the bakery. 
East coast love
Just so quaint
The weekend before Christmas brought a mind-blowing quantity of fluffy dry snow and I had three days off to enjoy it. Even better, Thad and Jenna arrived with arms full of Trader Joe's goodies and all manner of skis, and we went out and played hard every day of their visit. Thanks to them I felt like I progressed a lot in a short time, chasing Jenna through the trees and goading Squirrel onto the black runs. We spent the evenings stuffing our faces and drinking Old Chico and hanging out with my favorite people, and Thad proudly did his first shotski. On Christmas after a full powder day at Kirkwood we celebrated by having a taco tequila Tecate Tuesday, as tradition dictates.

Just so dorky
I even found time to see the Bay clan; Tyler and I ventured out of the highlands for long enough to enjoy a holiday meal with the Nichols and Ryans, and go riding for the probably the last time this winter. Now the year is coming to a close in the best way possible. The HR job ended on Saturday and I've already started training at the coffee shop, which has been non-stop inundated with cold tourists desperate for their candy-cane mocha lattes. And I love it.

14 December 2012

On Skiing

It dumped snow on Wednesday and this evening brought more flurries. After spending a couple of days on the mountain last week, with sunny skies, 45 degree weather, and lots of people out to scrape the top layer down to a glassy slick, I finally understand why everyone gets so dang excited about fresh snow. Even better, the lodge where HR is located FINALLY opened lift access to the mountain today, and I hurried out mid-afternoon for the premium perk of resort work: the ski break. It was way easier returning to the desk after being wind-blasted and snowed on at 10000 feet.

Because no new sport is fun without some extensive craigslist trolling, I scored a pair of pristine used chick skis with real nice bindings at a killer deal. They are so fast and smooth and I'm learning how to haul ass without too many consequences. Good form, cool tricks, difficult terrain? That'll come eventually, I hope.
So pretty! And not girly at all. They are named the Queen, naturally

On Monday Elen and I (and to some extent Tyler) spent the whole day at the Heave and I finally reached the point where I was experiencing more exhilaration than fear or frustration. It's really tough learning a new sport when I'm so comfortable with the sports I know. It reveals my sometimes intense narcissism: I hate not knowing what to wear, how to talk, what company makes the coolest gear, what immediately gives you away as a total fred (except in winter they're called darrells).
Definite darrells

Fortunately I have several friends willing to aid me in the quest for legitimacy, and ruthlessly heckle me along the way.


04 December 2012

An Addendum


this weekend it was raining at lake level and i was antsy as hell so i dragged tyler and katie and bert the dog up to luther pass and ran around in my new snowshoes while they skiied and it was too beautiful to articulate.

01 December 2012

The In-Between Season


Saw this on the way to work
Pic courtesy of Merrill
South Lake is a weird and not unpleasant place. Despite being (sort of) a resort town, the kitsch is kept very isolated in the actual Heavenly village, and the rest of town isn't at all precious. It's kind of gritty and trashy and low-income, but it's beside the point to focus on the all-night wedding chapels, the conflagration of neon, the proximity to that classiest of states, Nevada, when towering over us on every side are the Sierras in all their craggy majesty, and at every sunrise and sunset the lake is awash in pink. South Lake doesn't feel very "California" in the accepted sense, because even though there's kombucha sold at gas stations and Bay Area Asians flood the town during the holidays, it's still a slow-moving, blue collar kind of place. It keeps growing on me, especially during the most recent mountain and cx bike forays, when I keep finding more pockets of national forest land sandwiched between neighborhoods and honeycombed with trails.


The view from the backyard trails...ignore the bike
Pic courtesy of mtbr
Meanwhile all my friends are stricken with snow fever. I learned how to ski last week at Kirkwood, the nearby resort beloved for killer terrain and crazy snowfall. Weather and time have prohibited more slope action but this weekend heralds snow and most likely the end of my late-season cycling.

I've fallen back into the routine of normal life, so different from camp life: going grocery shopping, forcing myself to ride to work at least once a week despite the cold, going to the library, trail running with a headlamp after work. The inhabitants of LA Ave managed through the power of Craigslist to create a very cozy home on a very limited budget. It's a pretty quiet household but the five of us sometimes convene for movies or card games. My "other house" is a lot more lively, with dogs underfoot and frequent potlucks and a group of really close-knit friends.

Now I just need this late-autumn stasis to end so I can see if I actually like this winter sports thing.

This bodes well.
Pic courtesy of Heavenly

 

05 November 2012

Winter Cometh

the last couple weeks have seen plenty of upheaval so to those with whom i've failed to keep up, my apologies. the conference season ended early for me because the bosses at HR demanded my time ASAP. as a result i had to move out before most folks, but that didn't stop me from partaking of the season-ending festivities at camp. i took advantage one last time of the gear available and went paddleboarding on the still lake, and then snowshoeing in the four feet of powder in the hills above us. there was a big cozy banquet for all the staff, and a big drunken cabin crawl for halloween. there were lots of hugs and tearful goodbyes and promises made.
Disco Bingo. This is a paid shift, but I think we might've enjoyed
it more than the guests. 
Celebratory banquet and some of my favorite ladies 
Creepy folks at cabin crawl 
and now i've worked at heavenly for a week. it is a whole new world, for sure. i'm not quite sure how it happened but i definitely got suckered into the most desky of desk jobs. i'm a data entry coordinator, which means i process all the thousands of new and returning employees that come at the beginning of the season. i sit in front of a computer under fluorescent lights working in earnest for a solid eight hours each day. it's not boring, but it is grindingly monotonous and i have to stay vigilant the entire time because any mistake can jeopardize someone else's livelihood. i'll never do it again, but i don't hate it. it's challenging and tricky learning all the ins and outs of such a big operation. AND i don't have to answer the phone.

Such a cool town
and then i went to downieville this weekend and it was everything i could've hoped. it was wet and rooty and all the trails twisted along cliffs above the picturesque yuba river and the only bar in town was filled with backcountry hicks and i felt like i was home again. 

20 October 2012

The Shift

i climbed up to the bench on the tahoe rim trail yesterday and while it was lovely and warm, the wind was blowing fiercely and cirrus clouds were creeping eastward over the crystal range.

everyone is talking snow.

the forecasts claim six to twelve inches above 7000 feet on monday or tuesday, and then lake level is getting a wallop a bit later in the week. this is very late in fall for the first snow, but i still can't decide if i'm nervous or really excited. the buzz is contagious; almost all the staffers have scored their ski bum jobs and leased their ski bum houses, and now everyone is just waiting breathlessly for the weather to turn for good. 

i feel like i have my shit figured out, in the best way possible. i've rented a big house with a bunch of friends at brevard rates, i've sent in my absentee ballot, i'm going to downieville on thursday (!!), and (i think) i scored not one but two jobs at heavenly. i'll be working the front desk at HR until january and then go follow my true passion of makin' coffee at seattle's best.

if i had known moving cross country and setting up a new life was going to be so fun and easy, i would've done it a long time ago.

17 October 2012

Bad Tidings

Bathed in the glow of aspens and Indian summer sunlight, camp has undergone a very strange and sad week. In such a small, isolated, tight-knit community, any incident reverberates through the staff and leaves us all at a loss.

Two staff members were fired as a result of a flirtation that soured irreparably and caught the attention of certain managers that wanted to set an example, no matter the fairness of the decision. One staffer was shunted back to Georgia, the other stranded in the limbo of South Lake in October. The latter was a riding friend and I can't help but resent his perfunctory termination. 

In the tense, quiet aftermath of the firings, our wonderful dining room manager received word that her young, healthy husband had died in his sleep. 

She was devastated. Catatonic. 

Laura and I escaped the funereal pall of camp and rode our bikes down to Taylor Creek to watch the salmon spawning, and saw two bears munching blissfully on the plentiful fish carcasses. Then we went to Kiva and sat in the sand and eventually started talking about love and grief and the terrifying fragility of life. 

It was necessary. 


07 October 2012

Adventurin'

the other day in a fit of brashness i hopped on the deutschbike and rode around lake tahoe. it was an 85 mile ride from camp and i fully expected to quit somewhere around tahoe city and turn back. i haven't ridden that far since 2009 and this was the longest ride i'd ever done alone by at least 40 miles. and yet somehow i was never bored and only got really hurty at the end. it probably didn't hurt that it was pretty flat and intensely beautiful, and that the weather was perfect and there were luxurious shoulders and bike lanes everywhere.

Emerald Bay, probably the most picturesque
and the closest to camp too

i stopped at the same beach we hung out at after nationals in '09 and felt a flutter of nostalgia. i would give anything for nats to be here again this year so i watch the old alma mater score its inevitable victory.


and then yesterday i jumped out of a plane. what a rush. i'd do it again in a heartbeat. would recommend it to anyone.

30 September 2012

The Art of Saying Yes, and Also What's Next

While the daily high remains at 75F and the sun is as reliable as ever, the chill is lingering longer each morning and setting in faster each evening, and the conference season is half over. Unlike most of the nomads that work here, I simply can't embrace the fly by the seat of your pants lifestyle. One of my coworkers is a bit of an astrology nut and she informs me that as a virgo, I'm a total homebody and prefer organization, routine, and stability.

Yep. I'm such a homebody that instead of looking forward to the next adventure, like WWOOFing in Hawaii or road tripping to Mexico, I'm already dropping roots. Applying to work at Heavenly, hoping my fun and charming officemate will let me live with her in South Lake for the winter, and, most importantly: accepting a job as a three-season evening manager at Stanford Sierra. It's not for sure but I can't think of anything I'd rather do than stay here for at least another year. In the brief in-between of November I'm seriously considering a trip to Moab, and anyone that wants to join me is welcome. 

In the meantime I'm working on being more spontaneous. With the aid of one Mr. Ennis I spent the last year practicing the transformative art of saying yes. That doesn't sound like a big deal but it's served me well here, in fighting the entropic forces of my antisocial nature. When unusual opportunities present themselves, my first instinct is to say no, but saying yes often leads to great times. A couple days ago my suitemate suggested an impromptu camping trip to some hot springs hours south of us, and instead of offering up some lame and trivial excuse I decided to join the gang. There is something so Californian about chilling au naturel in hot springs under the full moon, drinking Sauvignon Blanc in the middle of nowhere. I felt like I was finally living up to my mother's hippie legacy. 

Buckeye hot springs
Pics courtesy of Viv (at least I'm stealing from friends
instead of strangers now)

Sunrise over our campsite
 Who knows what else saying yes could lead to. Everyone at camp is on a skydiving kick right now, and daytripping to Yosemite or the coast isn't out of the question. I also sometimes need to drop the book or postpone sleep for more mundane things like night hikes, Halloween DH races, group road rides, and cruising on the motorboat between shifts. It's tough, really.
The treehouse, for no other reason than I like it
Pic courtesy of Elena

18 September 2012

Life at Camp

I have been remiss in my duties.
Also I inexplicably broke the camera Dan gave me, so I will now resort to stealing photos from the internet because I'm classy like that. 
So here's my life in a nutshell right now: 

A couple days a week I work a 9-5 in the office. This frightened me at first, because of the sedentary nature of the job and more so because of the hulking, complicated beast of a phone that crouches on my desk, ringing constantly. I am not the best receptionist, but I'm learning, and after overcoming my stage fright I've started to really enjoy the office because it's challenging work, and we function as the hub of the whole operation. I love always knowing what's going on and where everyone is. 

On other days I work a shorter office shift and get some other random shifts too. Sometimes it's housekeeping, or working at the camp store/bar/coffee shop, or serving lunch, or setting up social hours for boozy guests. 

I, along with everyone else, am always alert for the meal bells so that I can scurry to the dining room for fish tacos, beef tenderloin, curry, or whatever else the kitchen chooses to put out. For breakfast I like to read on the deck overlooking the lake, drinking cappuccino and eating yogurt and raspberries. Other meals are a more collegial affair and I set my plate down wherever there's room, and laugh and gossip with whomever is available. 
The boat dock is right outside my cabin
When I'm feeling motivated between shifts, there is time for sunrise yoga, a morning paddleboard outing, some beach volleyball, or a trail run. Sometimes I prefer to just read or paint my nails on my cabin's little porch. After work is over I grab a beer from the Fountain (just put it on my tab) and join the raucous crowd at the smoker's circle or sit on the boat dock with my feet in the water or chat with my roommate and neighbors.

We get two days off a week, which seems downright luxurious. Rebecca and I have the same day off and so have plans of one epic mountain bike ride per week. The first outing was Mr Toad's Wild Ride, a roller coaster of rock gardens and stunning views that earned its reputation as one of the best descents in Tahoe. At some point a day trip to Downieville is on the agenda. 
Toad's was all about maneuvering over big rocks and
through a foot of moon dust.
On my other off-day I have a posse of like-minded hiking buddies. We're into really hard hikes with insane views and possible detours for swimming in alpine lakes. On Friday we scrambled and grappled up a moraine chute to Mount Tallac, at 9700 feet. It was by far the best hike I'd ever been on, even though we ended it sunburned and deeply dehydrated. 
You can see Fallen Leaf and all of Tahoe from Tallac.
Desolation Wilderness stretches out endlessly in the other direction.
I keep waiting for the magic to fade but it just gets better as I get to really know my coworkers and feel competent at my job(s). I would recommend this place to anyone--seriously, if you've ever considered temporary work, add this link to your favorites bar and apply for the spring season. 

11 September 2012

Idyll

I'm not sure why I waited so long to update on the current situation--I'm probably only a couple of days away from an insistent email from the mother or father.

I think maybe it's because words fail me. I keep having to pinch myself to be sure this is real, that somehow I deserve to be here staying in a free cabin, eating three free (delicious) meals a day, working with friendly, outdoorsy, sometimes hedonistic, perpetually nomadic people.

More than anything, it's just the most beautiful place I've ever been, and the idea that I can wake up every morning to the sun rippling over the cerulean lake and through the spruce pines, and go for a ten minute hike that puts me in a skree field overlooking both Fallen Leaf and Lake Tahoe, seems almost absurd. The other night the staff director took all us newbies on a night cruise in the pontoon boat and pointed out all the intensely illuminated constellations. We're surrounded by sinister 9,000 foot peaks that delineate sky and earth in no uncertain terms. There's enough time in the day to hop in the bracingly cold lake, take out a kayak or paddleboard, or head out for a quick ride. I've even found a riding companion who knows the nearby trails and yesterday she took me up a mountain and back down.

Suffice to say I'm already dreading the end of the work season, only two months away.

06 September 2012

3 Days, 3 Rides

as usual just imagine i have images to grace the words.

after too much down time i got back on the bike and went explorin'. the open space minutes from the g-ma's house yielded a really delightful piece of previously undiscovered (and illegal) singletrack. then gaskin brought savannah and the man to walnut creek for some hang out time. i dragged them up mount diablo just cuz, and while it was stupid and painful, it sure wasn't boring. ok, we had to stagger up vertiginous hills, barely able to find footing much less push our bikes, cursing the sheer insanity of the road engineers, but it was so dang beautiful. she has pictures, i do not.

then today i went down to pacifica, south of san fran and perched on the ocean, crowded on all sides by mountains. my riding companion du jour was more of the bro-brah persuasion and laughed at my clipless pedals and short travel, but i did all right. pacifica offers some of the only DH/FR in the bay area and as i swept through the eucalyptus groves, pinballing off berms and dodging doubles, i was reminded a lot of galbraith, in bellingham...if it hadn't rained in six months. we could pretend i was doing this, but in reality i remained within six inches of the ground at all times.

very exciting stuff though. i do love new places. and now onward to where the riding is nearby and by all accounts magnificent. tomorrow i'm heading northeastish, and giving a lift to a young meatneck coworker. this'll be fun.

04 September 2012

"Feelings"

north to santa rosa and south to santa cruz
the humboldt house, the boardwalk, and the homemade tattoos

sunk my heart at the bottom of the bay
gonna wash up on the black rocks one day
like unlucky sailors just swept out to sea


it's just so easy to have FEELINGS in a place that everyone writes songs about. 


california i'm coming home 
oh will you take me as i am 
strung out on another man 
california i'm coming home

02 September 2012

Killing Time

lodged as i am in the bustling bay area, this massive concrete zone that encircles the city, i'm chafing to get back to mountains, and to work. meanwhile my family provides endless entertainments that, while not outdoorsy or athletic, are still diverting. whether it's dancing in the sketchy part of SF, eating at highly rated restaurants, drinking bubbly at celebratory brunches, or attending giants games, i'm staying busy.

fêting the matriarch
i've been promised several moutain bike outings that have yet to materialize. there are golden hills within running distance of my grandmother's house so i expunge my restlessness with outings into the knee high grass shaded only by the rare oak. at the top of every dizzyingly steep hill is a 360-degree view of my surroundings, which are aesthetically pleasing albeit crowded with houses. i have yet to tackle mount diablo again, that towering plinth i yearn to summit, but i'm running out of time.

but i guess i do live here now, after all.

28 August 2012

Oh, Utah

We wended our way through Wyoming and it was windy and wide-open, with striated bluffs sometimes rising out of the scrub brush. The crossing into Utah brought abrupt elevation changes, towering peaks, and rivers. Why did no one ever tell me this state was so beautiful? We met up with Joh and headed down to Salt Lake City for a potluck in the park with friends. The beach volleyball courts beckoned and I grudgingly played for the first time, and loved it, and went to bed with dusty feet.

The next morning Joh took us hiking in stunning Wasatch National Forest, where even a moderate walk yields the most grandiose views. Then we sated our mountainous appetites with huge burgers at the only pub in Samak (the tiny hamlet of non-Mormons who left Kamas and spelled their new town backwards). Joh then had to work but I wasn't finished with this landscape. A bit of sheer Facebook serendipity landed me in the capable hands of a local mechanic/bike racer, who showed me a tantalizing sampling of what Park City had to offer. I struggled a little but wheezed less than expected at seven to nine thousand feet.

Reunited

Gotta love how worthless pictures are at conveying scenery
I usually try to put new trails in context by comparing them to old, but analogies failed me now. No trails I'd ridden were like these; twisty, steep, sometimes rocky or rooty (but usually at polite perpendiculars), covered in an inch of fine moon dust, but most noticeably graced always by a majestic vacuum--the sweeping valley and heartbreaking massifs that kept snagging my eyes and ripping me asunder. There's no doubt it was the most beautiful place I'd ever been. I didn't even try to take a picture. The sun set and we finished riding in the dark. So, Utah. Never mind the wicked winters, the snobs and the Mormons, the 4% ABV beer. I love it.
Oh yeah, we also played on the salt flats


Colorado Continued (now with pictures!)

I thought Boulder was beautiful, until I saw Lyons with its panorama of rocky red outcroppings and the towering presence of Long's Peak in the backdrop. I went for a ride with the Oskar Blues marketing director's awesome girlfriend Marily, who took me skittering over dusty pointy rocks and slabs and swooping down loose berms. We finished the ride in short order to catch the racers as they sprinted through Lyons--we baked on the roof of the Oskar Blues RV with the other "VIPs", fit friendly women and photographers. In a town of less than 2000 people I think every citizen showed up to watch the pros blaze by.
Picture Rock, where everyone takes a picture
Spectating
Ella and I are both introverts and this trip has involved prolonged pleasantries with new people every night, and yet we're not worn out; it's energizing spending time with so many interesting, involved, generous people. I feel I must have a serious karmic deficit going by now and must be sure to treat any and all travelers in a most welcoming manner. 
The view from Royal Arch
Post-mozzarella in Boulder
Samples at Celestial 

27 August 2012

Day Seven

Utah is the bestest. So far. More later when I have real internet (tomorrow, at the end of the road) and when Ella makes pictures happen since I've taken a grand total of two. For now let's just say this road trip has been fun, easy, and enjoyable. Much to my surprise, I wish I could stretch it for at least another week. This is one hell of a country, and all my friends scattered across it are amazing.

25 August 2012

Day Five

i'm doing my best not to fall in love with boulder but it's pretty hard. the us pro cycling challenge is finishing just outside of town today and almost a hundred thousand people with their shaved legs and hammer gel t-shirts have crowded into the city.

ella and i stumbled upon the celestial seasonings plant yesterday and were greeted by myriad delicious samples and an interesting factory tour. the best part was the mint room, a cavernous storeroom with double thick walls to lock in the intoxicating smell.

then we went for a casual hike on the outskirts of town that became THE BEST HIKE EVER. seriously. flatirons + royal arch at the chautauqua state park. do it. glorious.

my long time friend annie and her man took us out and showed us the joys of boulder happy hour--half price food and drinks every evening. i woke up with a mile-high hangover but was cheered by the prospect of a ride today in lyons. terribly exciting.

23 August 2012

Day Three

leaving brevard was even harder than anticipated, reducing me multiple times to a tearful child. but then i managed to fit all my worldly goods in the trunk of the rubasu with no trouble at all, and i picked up my traveling companion and as we embarked i could feel the weight of sadness slowly lifting. i'm looking forward, not back, at least for the time being.

we are crossing the country in a leisurely fashion. we are wowing everyone with our bizarre ability to find everything without the use of a GPS or smartphone. we are eating flatbreads and hummus and tomatoes in the shadow of the gateway arch in st louis. we are talking to lots of people about their grown-up jobs and how much they loathe them, and we are thinking perhaps deferring real life has been a good decision after all. we are pleasantly surprised with the midwest thusfar, but we are leaving now from kansas city and not at all excited about today's drive to denver.

15 August 2012

Roses

Each barrier to the western venture has crumbled in such a timely and convenient fashion that if one were so inclined, one might say it was meant to be.

I was nervous about driving by myself because I have less than awesome car endurance.

Then wonderful Ella agreed to come along, and immediately bought her plane ticket home to prove that she meant it.

I was weighed down by the inconvenience of home-hunting three thousand miles away, in the land of expensive rent.

Then I got a (temporary) job at a place that provides free meals and housing. Go check it out, it looks BEYOND awesome: http://www.stanfordsierra.com/

I was stumped by the trip itself: how does one spend seven days making a four day trip, without blowing too much money and while optimizing fun? Spontaneity is all well and good but part of me rebels against it.

Then the itinerary fell into place with uncanny ease:
-Nashville, to visit Ella's glamorous friend Alex
-Kansas City, crashing at Alex's folks' house
-Denver, with my grandparents, and day trips to Oskar Blues (and riding with the beer bros!) and Frisco (riding with the Graingers)
-Park City and some good solid time with the Tuttle!
-haul ass to the Bay Area, bid Ella a fond farewell, and spend a week hanging out with my west coast family before starting the job at Fallen Leaf Lake

It's all coming up roses, for real. Now if only Brevard (and the woods, and my friends, and my boy, and his dog) would stop being so wonderful...


23 July 2012

A Lesson in Humility, or Something

In the southeast this weekend there were myriad opportunities to race bicycles of all shapes and sizes; if you're of the Assos and ass cream crowd, the French Broad Cycling Classic offered an omnium of road rallying; if you're more inclined towards Camelbaks and Stan's rims, ORAMM pitted man against mountain; and if you like your rubber big and meaty* and your pants padded and polychromatic, Beech Mountain hosted DH Nats. Although I have in the past pursued all these disciplines, this year I felt nary an inkling to enter the fray. I was quite happy merely to applaud my friends in their endeavors, particularly Jamie D (FBCC omnium crusher, decent ping pong player), Kym S (podiums at Jerdon and ORAMM, impressive beer tolerance), and Dan (great runs in DH and DS, owner of very cute dog). Spectating did not make me envious or ambitious. I think Iron Mountain may have cured me of bike racing for good. 

*ugh. I'm sorry.

Which is not to say it was terrible. It was awesome (in retrospect). I postponed writing about it because the vitriol I composed during the actual event was of course tainted by the mind-curdling bonk I was experiencing. Now, a week later, I simply regret that my bad attitude and lack of endurance meant that I didn't fully appreciate the SICK trails of Damascus. 

I felt somewhat rockstar-ish for the first thirty miles, as Katie and I rode together and chatted and passed boys on the tech climbs and lamented the endless gravel. But then, of course, I reached the four hour threshold that I never pass otherwise, and Katie pedaled harder than me, and I was left alone to wallow in a soul-consuming funk. I wanted to quit but had no legitimate reason: I had a headache and my arms kinda hurt, and I didn't want to ride uphill anymore. The complaint machine in my head refused to shut off, even as the trail played like a Greatest Hits of Pisgah mix tape. Sycamore, Heartbreak, Big Creek, Farlow, Laurel. Every descent was a delight, with the same damp Middle Earth mystique as Pisgah, and the same nasty eroded water bars and root baskets and rocks, and the same promise of breathtaking views never quite realized. And then the race was over, and, surprise surprise, I had survived, despite being convinced I was going to fail/die. Meanwhile Katie took the win in magnificent fashion (and a tutu), Sheedy put the fear into Sam Koerber and snagged an amazing third after some full-body cramps, and Gaskin blazed onto the podium after the longest ride she'd ever done. My friends are awesome. 

And now I'm just annoyed with myself that instead of being a good sport on the climbs and ripping the descents, I was busy focusing on the fact that I was uncomfortable and not winning. Lame. Next time I ride somewhere new and exciting I hereby promise to actually do the trails justice. 

 Also, everyone should go race the Iron Mountain 100k next year. It was the jam. 

And no pictures. As usual. 

01 July 2012

Southernmost

I went to the Keys pretty well convinced I wasn't a water person.

We stayed on a lonely spit of land between Coupon Bight and the Atlantic, with iguanas doing their dinosaur scuttle through the backyard and key deer venturing close enough to pet. Deterred for the first few days by rough and persistent winds blowing off the backside of Hurricane Debby, we stayed onshore, paddling through the mangroves and fishing inside the protective islands. I learned how to snorkel behind the house and how to clean the shiny little fish we caught, slicing off paltry filets before tossing the remains back in the canal for our resident barracuda.
An odd juxtaposition 
The choppy seas eventually subsided and the Ennii eagerly loaded up the boat for long days in the deep, trolling (fruitlessly, alas) for many hot hours in hopes of catching bigger fish than I could imagine. I slathered on sunscreen and ogled the porpoise and flying fish and a solitary sea turtle.
Boat and boy. Obviously I didn't take many pictures. 

Water in my previous estimation was for clumsily splashing around in. The beaches of vacation provide only brief entertainment and the lakes of home are diverting but offer fewer amusements than dry land. But the Ennis clan is very sea savvy and came well-equipped, and I think that made all the difference. With the proper toys--with snorkeling gear and kayaks and a real fishing boat with outriggers and an able and appropriately white-bearded captain--I loved the water. I guess the same case could be made with anything: snowboarding, mountain biking, parasailing, whatever. The toys make a world of difference.

Yeah, it was good.


21 June 2012

Rambling, Where to Begin

My apologies: once again the turgid flow of summer has struck me dumb.

I've successfully combated bike burnout by looking with giddy anticipation towards the 100k, with its promise of sparkly new trails and a women's field stacked full of my friends. I've also warded off the doldrums by fiddling with the steed--Lisa now sports burlier tires and a wider handlebar and her transformation to "trail bike" was complete when I discovered the joys of lobotomy. Lisa came with two Brains, Specialized's wicked fancy suspension platform that's better suited for Charlotte short track than the repeated beatings of Pisgah's eroded fall lines. In the interest of science I dumbed her down and found new pleasure riding downhill, because with the Brain turned off the bike squishes not when it wants to, but when I want it to.

And because it has been neither hot nor humid enough here, I'm headed south for a week in the Keys with the Ennii--sure to be a noteworthy experience.

24 May 2012

Oh Boy!

Iron Mtn 100K
Registration: officially submitted.
Girlfriends: unabashedly pressured.
Attitude: super stoked.

I was sold on this race when the indomitable Cissy Fowler told me that last year the course made her decide to name her first child "Ridge". Talk about a glowing review!

14 May 2012

Striking a Chord

i'm not a huge fan of this song but the lyrics are positively uncanny.

11 May 2012

Night Ride

I've been having a trying time with the bicycle lately. With not a single race looming, I have no motivation to get faster and so must settle for watching all my riding companions power away from me up every hill. I haven't made any improvements in descending for as long as I can remember. I can't seem to stay upright for love nor money (and Dan delights in reminding me of it). Sometimes I forget why I do this, why I pursue this two-wheeled passion.

Then the other day a posse of us went off after work to partake of trails a bit off the beaten track. After ogling the brilliant green sweep of forest below us and the indigo peaks that spread out as far as we could see, we plunged down the mountain on flowy, leafy trails studded with massive boulders and slender staircases. In a last minute "can't hurt" decision I'd tossed my light into the pack and was very glad of it, because of course the drive out there took much longer than anticipated. We rode just on the cusp of night and I could feel my pupils expanding, trying to absorb every bit of available light in the darkening rhodo tunnels. I was delighted by how long we played the Jedi game but when logs began emerging unseen from the leaves it was a relief to stop and strap on lights, and the blazing fast choss road that followed was none too forgiving even with vision. Then we hit loops and switchbacks in quick succession through a pine needle forest, ducking trees and startling toads, crossing our fingers that our long-ago-charged batteries wouldn't give out. Too soon we emerged on the road under a slight drizzle, the much-heralded supermoon obscured by fog.

Oh yeah, I thought as we piled into the pick-up and I got lost in the reverie brought on by an excellent ride. This is why. 

03 May 2012

Destination Spot

Brevard, perhaps a little slow on the uptake, has abruptly and zealously embraced the title of cycling capital of the south. Goaded on by the new guard, our town is investing in trails and infrastructure, and advertising to the young, smelly fat tire set, and opening its streets to hundreds of spandexed individuals.

I've spent several hours now at the Bracken Mountain project, and the last time I was there, running through the verdant bowls and along azalea-dotted brook beds, I realized this magnificent trick that's been played on the city of Brevard. Bracken Mountain isn't really a tourist draw, a revenue bringer, an easy connector to the forest proper. Nope, it's just another plaything for the locals, a stand-alone loop perfect for after work rides, one more feature we can brag about to those unlucky enough to only visit.

Kind of unrelated but I LOVE this shot! 
Pic courtesy of Eddie Clark and bright pink shirt courtesy of Wes Dickson  
The publicity provided by Bike Mag has been instant, unexpected, a gamechanger. The B&B where I work has seen a tenfold increase in mountain bikers, droves of them flocking here in their Subarus and Jettas packed to bursting with chamois, chain lube, and energy drinks.

And in the grand tradition started by California and Colorado, with bikes inevitably comes beer. It seems that every week the town is abuzz after another brewery's announcement; first it was Sierra Nevada, then New Belgium, then closer to home Brevard Brewing Co opened its doors (to enthusiastic local fanfare) and, not to be outdone, Oskar Blues will be on Main Street by December. We had the chance to ride with the friendly and talented Oskar Blues boys and they were suitably enamored with the scope and variety (and greenness!) of our trails.

Try the Pilsner.
Pic courtesy of Meyer Photography
Truly it boggles the mind. Hops! Malt! Jobs!! In a perfect world, I'll go out to play in the west for a while and return at precisely the right time to land a plum post in the beer business. Here's hoping.

All this hubbub brings into focus (yet again) my visceral love for this little slice of NC. It's OK though, because I want to fall in love with somewhere new, with new people and new coffee shops and new mountains. I want to accumulate more of those moments where you stop, look around, and realize nothing could be more perfect. Sure, I encounter them on top of Coontree, and riding up to the bar at dusk, and sitting in the bike shop laughing so hard I'm crying, but there's a world full of moments like that. I want to gather up as many as possible while I have the mobility and flexibility to do it.

13 April 2012

Lots of Talking

I think it's safe to say that I'm not entirely honest when I write this blog. Because I'd really prefer that the casual reader envies me, rather than pitying me, I'm never going to air dirty laundry, talk in detail about friendships or relationships, or give too much air time to the negative emotions that we all have to deal with at some point or another.  It's a delicious truism of the blogosphere that no one ever reads what you write until you put your foot in your mouth--and then suddenly everyone is reading. (As a quiet, creepy blog reader I relish it when a distant acquaintance overshares in public...)

All this to say, this post will be a little more "dear diary" than most. Maybe because I haven't raced or traveled in a bit, or maybe because I have some stuff to process.

So I'm leaving in the fall. I'm doing it. I've said it every year since graduation, but now I'm doing it. I've just spent an embarrassing number of hours reading the posts at Geargals and I think Jill is my new favorite person. She steals the thoughts out of my head and writes them down way more articulately than I could ever manage, all while wielding power tools and fearlessly playing in the snow. I aspire to all of these things. She described what I want to do as a walkabout, which is just right; I know where I'll end up, when all is said and done, but I have to put the time in first. I need to run away from the homeland, the cushy place of easy, easy living and glorious trails and awesome people, and just get some damn experience out there in the big scary world.

I'm very envious of my friends that can drop everything and live the nomad's life on a whim. After living in the same apartment for all my adult years, I took an entire month to move into a friend's house four blocks away. I've done some hardcore purging of my possessions and tamed my acquisitive nature (no more buying clothes, ever, but I can't seem to stop spending money on my sexy, demanding bike). In this very slow, very timid little endeavor, I've found that I am not a hoarder, not overly attached to stuff, and that I can force myself to be organized and (almost) tidy when necessary. Good things to know, because if I want to take this party west, I'll need to simplify even more, be even more frugal, and to keep my shit together.

I really hate Brevard sometimes, for all of the same reasons I love it. Everyone freaking knows me. This is not gross egotism speaking, it's just a result of growing up in the bakery, going to school here, and becoming a part of the very large outdoor community. I really, really didn't want everyone to know I was planning to jump ship, but of course it leaked, and now I get the same questions every day. Where in Cali? How long? Why? So you've found a job, right?

It's okay though, because now I'm being held accountable. If I don't skedaddle come leaf season, I'll have to face another six months of conversations about it. It's all in kindness, of course, but I really. Really. Really don't like talking about myself and my plans to all the well-meaning customers and acquaintances in this little town. I'm a hermit at heart, obviously.

So. Watch this space, I guess. Also, some pics might surface eventually of wonderful weddings and picturesque bike rides...but I can't make any promises.

12 March 2012

The Good

These days have seen a steady progression of pleasant events. The goings-on in my life conspire to make me feel like a complete and contented person, at least for the time being. It's funny how much I vacillate between utter bliss and antsy wanderlust, although if those are my only two settings, I really don't have anything to complain about.

Since Morgan took a wild hare and signed up for the 111k, it was only fitting that we spend a morning clambering over the top of Black Mountain. It was a stellar ride that left us both grinning. I've been doing the same sports for long enough and with enough consistency that I rarely take inventory of fitness gains, but climbing Black I definitely noticed. The whole ride was almost effortless and didn't feel much harder than the Big M. I only put myself in the pain cave on the road home, sprinting to make it to work on time.

Like I mentioned, the John Rock trail race was next up on the agenda. The parking lot was filled with locals and those poor interlopers who wished they were locals. I was reminded how cool the running community is around here: Baker Bill (of course), Cason, Jackie, Sara, Wild Bill, Chanley, Sadie, Mr and Mrs Squirrel, the dude who works at the Hatchery...It was a good scene.

The race was short and the stakes were high (just kidding) so I decided to lay it all out there, which I neverever do in running races. The kilometers ticked by and I continued to feel like a baller, and this time I took it a bit easy on the descent, not wanting to jeopardize the surprise lead. I finished twelfth overall with Chanley breathing down my back as the second woman. A beautiful day, an energizing run, and mad props from everyone--an unbeatable combination.

On Sunday my little sis persuaded me to crash a high school pick-up game, which left me sunburned, bruised, battered, and wickedly stoked on life.

It's not just the sporting life that has been treating me well. Work is going smoothly, my taxes are safely filed, the daffodils are blooming under my window. Of late there have been many memorable get-togethers and social gatherings, evenings of Wii, burritos, Coors Light, sing-alongs, club-hopping, fire-sitting, beard-stroking, playing catch-up with old friends and meeting new, going home with someone I really like at the end of the night...

No, I certainly can't complain.

09 March 2012

Pain Please

After a couple weeks of rather shameful sloth, this weekend I endeavored to hurt myself in a variety of ways. First up was the Mind Over Mountain 15k, a tiny inaugural trail race in SC. On a wet Saturday morning we wound up out of Jones Gap State Park and for the first four or so miles, despite picturesque waterfalls and splendid views, I was vaguely disappointed with the terrain. "Not for beginner trail runners or the faint of heart," boasted the race description. "Do not underestimate the difficulty of this course." C'mon, my inner mountain goat bleated. Gimme the goods. Then the trail pitched straight up endless staircases à la Art Loeb or Presley, and my elevation fiend was satiated. The race topped out at Caesar's Head then plunged southward again. I had been chilling on the climb but the downhill was so long, so sweet that I gave it my all, chasing dudes down and bounding through dry creek beds, praying I wouldn't place a foot wrong and smash my face on the waiting rocks. 


Totally awesome.

The next morning, my calves crying out for respite, I joined a gang of 111k hopefuls to ride Laurel-Pilot from the shop. We had a more epic ride planned but the 15 miles of climbing before Laurel, the plummeting temps, and CB's untimely mechanicals deterred us and we hauled ass home on the road, leaving bonking and frozen friends behind us like decapitated soldiers in the Mekong Delta. 


One might, if one were so inclined, argue that I should've gone snowboarding that chilly, snowy day, instead of Tuesday, which was sunny and 60°. Pshaw. Hungry to get in one last evening on the slopes, I cajoled Chuck and Dan into accompanying me, and for what it's worth we had a good time on the stupid icy runs...minus a couple of painful yardsails. I still suck at snowboarding (three trips does not an expert make, no matter how much it frustrates me) but oh man is it fun. 


This weekend brings with it the John Rock 8k in which all the local runners talk shit and throw down for bragging rights appreciated only by few. I can't wait! 




As usual, no pics because a: the internet does not deign to acknowledge my existence and b: ain't got no camera. 

25 February 2012

Oh Yeah, That Trip...

only a month late...thanks to mitch, sarah, and brad for the lovely pics...
someone should make a movie about us

waco, tx: happiest place on earth...
right? 
a very fine looking bunch of rumps
there's a first time for everything
having entirely too much fun.
must remember to make serious face during races


in other news, after standing still for what has felt like a very long time, i've taken some small steps forward (with larger steps to come). my secret new year's resolution was "get out and get some", and also to a lesser extent "try new things"...more ambitious than my usual resolutions, but surprisingly successful so far.

i don't mean to be cryptic, but i'll spill more when i've held myself to my own promises. i don't want to jinx it by showing my hand too early. 


31 January 2012

And Then the Icycle

To the amusement of our cabinmates, we rolled into Fontana around 10:30 PM and piled out of the heavily weighed-down Purple People Eater, reeking of swamp rot and Chinese food, outfitted in camo and full of somewhat-entertaining anecdotes.

The next morning we were all stoked to race, because as everyone knows, road trips are the perfect preparation for competition: dehydration, sleep-deprivation, countless hours in the car, a glut of country music, a dearth of coffee, debilitating starvation and/or heinous over-consumption (depending on whether you ask the boys or the girls).

Needless to say, Dan won. And Sheedy won. And Geoff B won. And Sarah raced her first expert race LIKE A BOSS. And I won. And then I sort of tumbled down the hill during the night DH, and then sort of started eating Oreos and drinking and dancing, as you will have at the Icycle. As usual it was a weekend of joyful festivities with intermittent and only quasi-serious bike racing sprinkled in, and I think as usual everyone had a great time.

Ode to the Road

Once upon a time the BC team drove to Fort Collins for road nationals, and I was admittedly a little disappointed. Every road trip movie and book ever made has lead me to believe that the experience should be chock full of camaraderie, gut-busting laughter, spontaneous ridiculousness, annoying inside jokes, too much food, not enough sleep.

Years later, I finally got my wish.

We assembled a crack squad of road trippers, based off two important criteria: desire to ride bikes somewhere new, and ability to get time off work. Somehow this rigorous selection process yielded a foursome that meshed perfectly. 
I have access to no photos as of yet, so use your imagination.
Here we are brandishing Mitch's arsenal on a debris-littered gun range.
We're wearing so much camo that all you can see is
surreal floating torsos and heads. 
We started the trip off on an unbeatable high note--embracing our inner rednecks in the hinterland of southwestern Arkansas, where Dan's BFF Mitch outfitted us with all the guns, off-road vehicles, and Natty Ice necessary to fully appreciate the splendor that is the south. Fueled by a heavy meal from Country Vittles (the jewel of Crossett, AR), we ventured out into the ragged swamplands to shoot clays, knock over deer stands, splash through as much parasite-ridden mud as possible, and generally make asses of ourselves.

Here we are, dry and happy in sunny Waco,
which is apparently the best town ever,
home as it is to Uncle Dan's BBQ, the taco shack, and Cameron Park. 
Obviously we were sad to leave, but our next stop made up for it. Cameron Park in Waco, TX provided hours of thoroughly entertaining mountain biking on roller coaster trails that made the Floridians giggle. Then we stuffed ourselves with excellent BBQ and hightailed it to Austin.

Unfortunately, rain and storms dogged our step. Austin received something like 50% of its annual rainfall during our visit, which elicited from us a hearty WTF?! Of course, there were still Goodwills to troll, Texmex to consume, Mellow Johnny's to explore, exorbitantly expensive and beautiful cowboy boots for Sarah to buy, and so many bars to hop. Sixth Street had it all in spades: billiards, dubstep, mechanical bulls, fantastic margaritas, swanky hotels, crispy bleached blonde girl bands, and bearded dude blues.
Here we are presenting our muddy posteriors,
the aftermath of a day of mountain bike misadventures in Austin. 
Which is not to say we didn't try to ride in Austin. A foray into the slippery, silty Barton Greenbelt was entertaining if somewhat frustrating, but at Rocky Hill Ranch the carnivorous clay devoured our drivetrains and our spirits. The towel was thrown. So what else was there to do but retrace our steps to Waco and play there some more?

And then (why not?) we did some climbing in the sandstone haven of northern Alabama. Which is to say, Dan and Sarah did some climbing and Sarah gently and expertly ushered Chuck and me up the rock. I've gotta say, that bug has bitten me. Anyone have a pair of climbing shoes I can buy?
Here I am scaling a rock face at Palisades Park,
with a determined/constipated grimace on my face.
I was sure I'd never make it to the top. 
And so, to sum it all up (or to "shine the light", as it were): shotguns, mud, Shiner-Bock, cheap motels, expensive hotels, cowboy boots, live music, rock climbing, gubernatorial facial hair. All in all it was a marvelous adventure.


16 January 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

on saturday night most of brevard's best and brightest showed up downtown to herald in erica's thirtieth year, and my goodness it was a good shindig. the ladies were gussied up and the gentlemen were dapper and no one was above boogying down to LMFAO...except a certain councilman, who just played paparazzo all night. i feel so lucky to have such a huge pack of awesome, dance-happy friends.

the next morning the soles of my feet were ragged and my legs were leaden. i missed the early caravan rolling down to charlotte but refused to skip the short track race so i drove myself, aware of the patent absurdity of driving four hours to race forty minutes. sometimes i'm just selfish like that. because lord have mercy, i do love short track. it's the only kind of racing i get. at the start line all the charlotte ladies were aflutter to have a new face in their midst, and a couple of them helpfully explained the race format and pointed out the local favorites. i considered myself warned.

the course was so fun. after the start lap the twelve of us became three, then two. my favorite lap in short track is always the one where you're done playing around, you've figured out the other girls' weaknesses, and it's time for business. that's the kitten shittin' lap, when you look behind you and see faces contorted with pain and disbelief. i crossed the line and actually managed to raise both arms in a half-assed victory salute.
Braaaap

of course, it was the first race of the season. i resolutely refuse to have off or on seasons, i just stay the same year round, so in february when i come back to charlotte i'll probably get my just desserts from women who have been doing their computrainer sessions. but while they head back to their suburban tract housing, my drive home consists of watching the sun set over the still-snowy mountains past the saluda gorge. so that's always kind of a win right there.

02 January 2012

Hooray

what a difference a day can make. as 2011 drew to a close i was perhaps a little cranky, a little antsy, feeling schlubby, whatever. the first day of 2012 left me bruised, exhausted, joyful.

after three hours of sleep and three hours of housekeeping, i joined the guys for the sycamore cycles new year's ride. it was warm and sunny and spirits were high despite the aftereffects of the previous night's, um, spirits. because we are all a little stupid, we merrily set off to ride 477 to club gap and over the top of black mountain. on the road i struggled to maintain a conversation with wes while trying to pretend i wasn't dying, but eventually as the trail pitched up, and up, i felt better. i do love technical climbing. and lisa really, really loves it.

of COURSE this was the only picture taken. thanks carlos! 
i think you have to be in the right mood to enjoy black mountain. i think we were all in the right mood. as the sky went crazy overhead and the sun glittered over the pink beds side and storm clouds glowered over the looking glass side and random precipitation soaked us and the wind tugged us towards the precipice, we all smiled and pushed onward. it was dramatically beautiful so of course there wasn't a camera to be found. as usual the downhill was big and scary and fun. i went ass-over-teakettle into one of the most egregious wheel-swallowers past turkey pen, but lived to tell the tale.

so now that i have remembered how to ride a bike, i think perhaps i will race one. the first snake creek tt is this weekend and i've convinced morgan to come along for some north georgia suffering. then maybe some charlotte short track, because as everyone knows short track is the most wonderful thing there is. then THE ICYCLE, which is also the most wonderful thing there is. it may very well be a good january.