Sunday, June 8, 2014

Single Speed Shenanigans

It has now been 15 months since I broke my leg.  For those readers without children that translates into one year and three months in normal human time.  As a childless adult I have always struggled with the insistence on referring to a child's age in months.  It can get a little out of hand when someone refers to their 3rd grader as a 96 month old.  According to that math I'll be celebrating the big 444 next month.  As much as I love the number four and its repetition on this particular occasion I feel it would be a lot easier for everyone if I just said thirty seven.

So about my leg. I determined that the ultimate test of my recovery would be a trip to the mountains aboard Stumpy.  There really is no better way to evaluate the status of a once broken limb than to climb a few thousand feet on a rigid single speed.  Most doctors would agree.  In the interest of making the ride as manageable as possible I decided to add a little extra meat to the front of my bike in the form of a Panaracer Rampage.  2.35" of trail eating rubber generously donated by The Greek to the everybody wants Dave to stop whining about his skinny front tire fund.

Stumpy looking fast and nasty the night before the ride.

Early Saturday morning The Greek and I set out from Charlotte in his Honda Civic Adventure Mobile on our way to Wilkesboro.  The plan was pretty simple:  ride all the trails!  For those familiar with the trail system at Kerr Scott you'll easily see that our chosen route was relatively ambitious.  The rest of you just pretend and nod along in a knowing manner.  Our plan was to park by the dam and ride the Dark Mountain Loop.  From there we would take the OVT to Shiner's run, reconnect to the OVT and get on the pavement after passing Bandit's Roost.  A quick road ride up to Warrior Creek followed by a fast and flowy lap and a five mile road ride back to the car would tie it all together.  Piece of cake.  All we needed were a few provisions and we would be on our way.

He was selling candy.  Seemed legit to me.

Knowing that our lap of Dark mountain would bring us right back to the car we each decided to take just one bottle and leave all of our food behind.  With this being my first time in the hills in more than a year I was just a little bit excited.  I also had a coffee on the way to Wilkesboro.  The Greek chose poorly when he bought that coffee.  As soon as we hit the trail head I was off like a shot.  I kicked mercilessly at the pedals as we attacked the first climb.  And the second.  And the third.  Did I mention it was 90 degrees with what felt like 99% humidity?  Not enough humidity to be rain but enough that you are hot and wet all the time. And not in a good way.  

We made a strong push around the loop and when we got to the final descent we dropped like stones. Perhaps it was the excitement of being on the trail or maybe it was just the coffee but the decision was made to ride back up the final downhill and hit it again.  Fun was had.  Videos were shot.  We debated giving it one more run.

Back at the car we loaded up for the rest of our ride.  Knowing that the longest part of our day was ahead of us we each grabbed two full bottles and a somewhat random assortment of nutrition.  In my never ending quest to find IBS friendly foods that come individually wrapped and fit nicely into a jersey pocket I have come to love fruit snacks from Trader Joe's.  With a pocket full of tasty fruit goodness, a couple Lara bars and two packs of mustard I was ready to rock and roll.  Mustard you ask?  For cramping I reply.  It works, look it up.  Or just ask a scientist.  

Freshly stocked we rolled over the dam and hit the OVT.  Only a few feet after my tires hit the dirt I found a bandanna laying on the side of the trail.  It was new.  It was clean.  It went around my neck.  It will come in handy later.  You'll see.  But you'll wish you hadn't.

A few miles of fast, swoopy machine cut single track brought us closer to our next destination.  It was at this point in the day when the heat started to become painfully apparent.  Both of us were dripping with sweat and turning bright red but for reasons that escape explanation neither of us seemed to notice.  I kept hammering away at the pedals with The Greek in tow until we hit the car-laden stretch of pavement that would lead us to Warrior Creek. With a mile and a half of easy spinning in our legs we were ready to rock when we got to the entrance gate. Drank a little water, ate a few fruit snacks.  Felt a little rumble in the B area of IBS.  No worries, that'll pass.

Six miles into the Warrior Creek loop I learned an important lesson about the impact of heat on IBS.  What I found out later was that high temperatures can cause your body to restrict blood flow to your intestines. What I learned on the trail was that a random trail side bandanna can come in very, VERY handy.  Let's just say that bandanna is now buried in the forest and it's original owner is better off without it.  

After what will forever be referred to by The Greek and I as "the incident" I was feeling much better.  I'd go so far as to say I was feeling bouncy.  Like a cat bolting out of a litter box with seemingly boundless energy after doing unspeakable things.  This is also the part of the ride when I turned my brain back on.  On hot rides I typically use one bottle for hydration and one for dumping water on myself.  For the rest of the loop I squirted water through my helmet vents at regular intervals and brought my body temperature into a manageable range.  Feeling much better I stopped to snap a couple pictures of The Greek carving the turns that made this trail famous.

 Up or down, they are fast either way.

As we wrapped up the Warrior Creek loop and turned on the road for our spin back to the car we were both feeling pretty cooked.  The heat combined with the days effort had left us both tired and hungry.  Dining options in the area are a touch limited but there is one local haunt that always hits the spot.

That is a Tyson chicken processing plant in the background.
The aroma is quite distinct.

BBQ, french fries, hush puppies, slaw and a "recovery" soda.
I'm sure this is exactly what Jaroslav Kulhavy eats every day.

Overall the ride was a huge success.  In all we covered 37 miles in around six hours.  We didn't break any land speed records but the fact that my knee functioned flawlessly was a welcome surprise.  My leg feels good.  My knee feels good.  My foot feels good.  Time for more running perhaps?  Oh, you know you want it.  Think of the fun we'll have sharing stories of running through the woods in tiny shorts.  I could take pictures!  I could write about it here!!  You could read it!!!  And nothing could possibly go wrong.  I can feel you judging me like a large judgmental eagle.  That is the most serious kind of judgement of all.

Is he judgmental or is he just sad?
Poor, sad judgmental eagle.
He's not majestic.  Not majestic at all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Find the Best Cupcakes in Charlotte

by the Little Italian

I have a commute to work that takes approximately 6 minutes every morning. In the month since we moved to Center City, not once has my commute home taken less than two hours. I don't know what happens.  I watch my place whiz past and I just keep riding.

What am I riding? Well I prefer to ask who am I riding..... because she not only has a name but also feelings and a clear predelicton for ice cream and cake, based on where she takes me.  Her name is Katrinka.

My two-wheeled wonder.

Yesterday I was in the mood for a cupcake. Not just any cupcake, mind you, but the most truly fine cupcake Charlotte (nay, North Carolina) has to offer. There is only one place to find a cupcake like this, and that is Polka Dot Bake Shop in the Park Road shopping center.

There are rules though.  One cannot drive to a cupcake shop on a Tuesday morning for no discernible reason other than one is secretly 3 years old deep down inside, and then drive back, and then eat the cupcake alone in one's posh, air-conditioned abode. This seems all wrong.  No, a cupcake must be earned and eaten on a park bench in the sunshine.  Here's how you do it:

The trolley trail in Southend is marvelous and provides a wonderfully lovely, inefficient bridge to Dilworth. Let me explain: if you want to get somewhere efficiently on your cruiser you are riding it wrong. You might as well wear your bike as a hat and walk backwards. Efficiency is not our goal here so all rides pretty much start and end on the trolley trail.

The Trolley Trail: You won't get there fast, but you'll enjoy the ride.

Eventually, you'll pop off the trolley trail, cross South Blvd., and hop onto Worthington, which will take you through a charming neighborhood of tree lined streets and fancypants multimillion dollar ranch homes. They are quite pleasant to look at, though something in my head doesn't understand spending the equivalent of a small country's GNP on a 800 square foot home. But maybe that's just me.

One you hit East Boulevard you will come face to face with Menchi's.  Do not look directly at it.  It is full of ice cream and the wee tasty bits you exuberantly fling throughout your ice cream bowl, like a metabolically deranged Jackson Pollock.  You will come here another day. Just keep pedaling until you hit Freedom Park, and then hop on the Carolina Thread Trail.

Menchi's is best experienced with the kind of friend who loves you enough to pry the Heath Bar bits ladle out of your hand.

The Carolina Thread Trail will take you through Freedom Park and down toward Park Road, with lots of pretty spots and artwork and interesting people along the way. You will see little old ladies with large sun hats walking small, impossibly cute dogs. There will be women pushing in giant strollers children who by all accounts seem to be at least 8 years old, but what do I know about mothering. I woke up this morning and found my cat licking dried lentil soup off the heater element of my crock pot.  I'm no expert.

The Carolina Thread Trail. 

From here, it's just a very short death-defying Frogger-hop across 5 lanes of terrifying and complicated traffic and here we are, Polka Dot Bake shop.

Monday is lemon blueberry cobbler day. Let's talk about this for a minute. Lemon cupcake of unimaginable lightness and sweetness, with a little dash of blueberries inside and on top. The frosting seems to be some kind of lemon-cream-cheese-who knows what, and atop that is a a sprinkling of cobbler topping.

Om. Nom. Nom.

Now go find yourself a nice little shady spot under a tree, preferably next to a babbly little brook and enjoy your cupcake. And by enjoy, I mean, be one with the cupcake. By no means should you scarf it down in 3 seconds and then wonder "Who the hell stole my cupcake?" I do have a solution for this problem though, should it arise. It's called Second Cupcake. This is a measure not to be taken lightly, but I strongly believe in being prepared. I was a Girl Scout.

Now it's time to go home. Chances are you've just eaten 800 calories of sugar and fat so I strongly advise you take the longest, hilliest ride home possible. I'm not sure to what degree this ride will absolve you of the matter but for what it's worth since I have started riding my bike everywhere
instead of driving, I seem to have become some kind of superhuman calorie smashing, fat-burning machine with an almost unlimited capacity to metabolize baked goods.

As a fitness professional I'm sure I'm supposed to have a conviction about moderating dietary sugar and fat even when highly physically active. But here's the way I see it: Cupcakes = delicious. Bicycle = greatest invention ever. My bottom = every bit as fabulous as it ever was. You know what we call that, people? Science.  It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Much Too Much Part II

How much stuff do you need?  How much do you REALLY need?  That is a pretty important question right there.  I am sure there are other questions of more pressing concern but they are few and far between.  Is William Shatner still alive?  Why is Cindy Crawford marketing budget furniture?  Do you know where I left my pants?  Like I said, few and far between.  Certainly still important.  That's why I'm here.  To ask the tough questions.

I had too much.  I had far too much and it was starting to drain me.  As I looked around my over-sized apartment in the suburbs all I saw was stuff with more stuff around it.  And then there was stuff behind that. Somewhere in mid-January The Little Italian and I both snapped.  We had simply had enough.  We had too much stuff in too much space with too many cars and not enough free time because we were busy cleaning all of our stuff and neatly arranging it in our cavernous space.  According to 50% of the people currently participating in my marriage we also had too many cats.  If only I could have talked some sense into the other 50%.  The only other option would have been to take on a second wife to help sway the vote in my favor but then I would have had too many wives and that would have only added to my problem of having too much stuff.  Besides, polygamy is currently illegal in North Carolina.  At least I think it is.  Maybe I should I look into that.

So there we were, sitting in our big apartment with nothing but our stuff and a mission.  The mission was quite simple.  Get rid of it.  Get rid of what exactly?  All of it.  Or at least most of it.  We still needed essentials like underwear and spatulas but for the most part we could live without most of what we had.  Like the majority of Americans we had consumed to excess with little regard to whether or not we actually needed all that we had.  The list of things we got rid of was lengthy.  
  • The fancy dining room set for all the dinner parties we never had because we don't like dinner parties.
  • The extra couch for all of that extra sitting we were doing when we weren't sitting on our other couch.
  • The four fake trees.  Four.  Fake. Trees.  Seriously.  Because real trees are scary?  Because real trees are hard to find?  Because Charlotte is in the desert?  
  • Two bowling balls.  One for each of the times I have gone bowling in the past decade.
  • A marble cheese slicer.  Must have been a wedding gift from someone who was at the wrong wedding.  Lactose intolerance is no laughing matter people. 
  • A 2005 Toyota Corolla S.  Did I mention I had four fake trees?  Four.  That is at least four more fake trees than any human under the age of dead really needs.
I was sneaky with that last one.  See how I did that?  Threw the car in there and then distracted you with that tree bit.  I should probably work for the government.  They don't make you pass a drug test, do they?
Yes, my car was amazeballs.  No, I have not missed it even once since I sold it. But I will say she and I had many great adventures.

Damn she looked sexy from behind.

I'll save you a little time here and not continue on with the list.  When I jotted it down in my notebook I went through enough paper to kill at least one of my fake trees.  But that is how it goes. The list gets long but you don't even notice.  We had so much stuff that we made five separate trips to Goodwill and could barely tell the difference when we looked around the apartment.  The final few days before our move we got ruthless.  We were getting rid of things so quickly that it was hard to keep track.  But we did it.  We reduced our material possessions to such a small number of things that the moving company had us packed up in thirty minutes.  The boys didn't even break a sweat.  That made me angry so I splashed water on them to make it look like they were working hard.  I don't think I need to tell you how they responded to that.  I guess movers can't take a joke.

That is the beginning, not the end of this story.  The Little Italian and I have now been living in our small apartment in the city for a full month.  We dropped 450 square feet of space and yet did not fill our new home with the belongings we moved.  We have so little stuff that our apartment looks spacious rather than cluttered.  Thanks to an ultra-convenient location we are both able to walk to work every day saving giant piles of money on gas, car repairs and anti-depressants while greatly improving our quality of life. I know what you are thinking.  But the Davemobile, what about the Davemobile?

We are now a one car household and go days on end without driving the car we share. It gets us to the grocery store when we need to stock up on bacon and out to the mountain bike trail but that is about it.  So the car we share......

Bitchin Yaris?  Isn't that the name of a song?

Imagine for just a moment spending all of your road time in a go-cart that can go 75 miles per hour while carrying your bicycle.  Do know what you are imagining right now?  Awesome.  You are imagining Awesome.

I have also discovered in recent weeks that there is more than one way to get to the trailhead and certainly more than one way to shred singletrack.  Remember my BMX bike?

Sold It!

I'm sure you remember my rocket ship of a road bike as well.

Sold that one too!

I decided to get something a tad more versatile in an effort to downsize my bike fleet a bit and get more use out of what I had between my legs. In a two-wheeled sense of course.  For the first time since 1998 I actually paid the full retail price for a bicycle.  She's not light.  She's not fancy.  But this is the most fun I've had on a bike in years.  Allow me to introduce the newest member of my family.....

You can stop complaining about the lack of bike content in my blog now.
I told you good things were coming your way.

Steel.  Singlespeed.  Cyclocross.  Tastiness.  Let a tear slide down your cheek.  I don't judge.

So begins my urban lifestyle experiment.  Living in the center of the 17th largest city in the country with a handful of bikes and a pocket full of fruit snacks.  Many stories of two-wheeled adventures are coming your way along with a host of pointless observations of life in the city. Trust me, it'll be fun for all of us.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Much Too Much - Part 1

There once was a beautiful girl with olive skin who lived with a pasty young man from the great white north. He was incredibly handsome in a scrawny, European sort of way but without the all smoking and the skinny jeans. From far away he may have been mistaken for a larger man by those with poor eyesight or the mentally ill.  Perhaps through creative positioning or with proper lighting he could have been made to appear larger in photographs.  In an artist's rendering on canvas our hero would have been most impressive.  He probably would have been wearing a cape.

Damn you Google, when I asked for a picture of a handsome prince 
this is not at all what I had in mind.

Our hero and his female companion lived in a magical place known as the suburbs.  A land of chain restaurants and strip malls where people moved about in something called automobiles.  Historians have argued for generations about the necessity of this form of transportation.  Long into the future they will undoubtedly determine that all suburban-dwellers were physically handicapped.  The young suburban couple in our story owned two such vehicles and utilized them daily to travel any distance greater than 50 feet.  You see, the suburbs were designed not for people, but for cars.  Even something as simple as crossing the street was nigh impossible because of the intentional omission of crosswalks, sidewalks or any sort of walk for that matter.  But alas, the suburbs drew new inhabitants like flies to dung.  

In this land of tasteless food and shopping malls, people built castles and surrounded them with large tracts of land.  The pasty prince and his Italian bride lived in a castle named Anderson where they each had their own private bed chamber with attached water closet.  Although not a particularly bad idea given the young man's gastrointestinal disorder it does, upon further review, seem a bit excessive for each person to have more than 600 square feet all to themselves.  And it should not go unmentioned that the automobile had its own room as well.  What a lucky automobile.
2D Floor Plan image 1 for the Anderson Floor Plan of Property Autumn Park Apartments
One day the handsome prince and his lovely little Italian were sitting on opposite ends of their abode speaking to each other through a device known as an iPhone.  For those around the campfire who are unfamiliar with this technology it is worth mentioning that an iPhone is a hand-held computer primarily utilized for playing video games and looking at pictures of scantily clad women on the something called the internet.  Or at least that is what our prince was told.  Our prince would only ever use such a device to research biblical passages and call his mother.  He was a very good prince indeed. 

The intrepid suburban dwellers had an epiphany while sitting on opposite ends of their cavernous home.  Perhaps their castle was too big.  Perhaps they had too much stuff.  And maybe, just maybe, the suburbs were not the highest evolution of human habitat design.  Better than a cave, yes.  But not by much. And definitely more expensive.  

Out of the Anderson they ran throwing their belongings every which way.  Saving only their most essential possessions and moving into a much more modestly sized domicile, the heroes of our story moved into the city.  Into a 27 floor high rise they ran singing the praises of high-density living and shared resources all the way.  When the story continues we'll surely find our former suburbanites smugly running through the streets with nary a car key in their pockets.  What adventures will they undertake?  Will sharing a bathroom lead to their doom?  Will our handsome prince ever use Google again?  Only time will tell.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chapter Two

We'll call the past eight months an intermission.  A simple break to allow each of you time to stretch your legs and take a trip to the bathroom while reflecting on the the first part of the show.  Of course, that is a very long time to step away.  What you do in the bathroom is your business but with 3/4 of a year to kill you had plenty of time to get a little weird.  Don't send pictures, I don't want to know.  Based on my reader statistics I know there are at least a couple freaks among you.  I'm cool with it.  Stick around.  We're all friends here.

To answer the question you are all surely asking I will simply say this.  The writing stopped when the inspiration stopped.  Not sad, just true.  When I first started this little project in 2009 my goals were simple:

1)  Utilize this creative outlet to explore my interest in writing.
2)  Make my friends laugh, possibly snort and occasionally blow drinks out their nose.

There probably should have been more well defined goals or perhaps a specific framework to provide direction.  I ventured down the mountain bike racer blog path for a while because their certainly aren't enough of those scattered across Al Gore's interwebs. Then we took that painful little trip down the path of trail running bloggy-ness.  I heard your complaints.  I ignored them.  I'll continue to ignore them but I still love you in a very southern, non-Brokeback Mountain sort of way.  Don't worry, we can still wear cowboy hats.

So let me tell you a little story about the genesis of this lengthy hiatus.  Yes, I was running again.  After breaking my leg last summer I went through a lengthy recovery period and eventually got my lungs back.  My legs?  Well, they were on their way.  I was making some excellent progress when my old friend Stupid came back into my life.  Stupid is that little devil who sits on my shoulder and says things like "36 is the new 22."  "You can do it, this is definitely not a bad idea."  Or my personal favorite "Go ahead, I'll hold your beer and take pictures."  Stupid.  Perhaps more an evil twin than a friend.  Either way, the cause of more good stories than any other source of inspiration I know.  Except drugs.  But drugs are bad, mmmkay.

Night running.  Yup, running at night.  On trails.  In the dark.  With bears and vampires.  Night running.  Like night putting but without the 15 year old daughter of the dean.

When I was first invited to join a night run on the trails of the USNWC I was 100% certain it was a bad idea.  Then I went out and did it and was thoroughly convinced that I was correct.  Running at night while wearing a headlamp is not an inherently foolish endeavor.  Most people who do it enjoy a leisurely pace and chat with their friends while watching the beam of their headlamps bounce along the trail ahead of them.  Me?  Not so much.  Feeling springy I decided the best course of action would be to run my lungs out while pushing the pace with a couple other skinny kickers.  I was recovering from a broken leg.  They weren't.  We all know where this is going.  The good news is that I didn't break anything.  The bad news is that I haven't been able to run for six months.  Yes, that is the bad news.  Stop whining about the lack of bike content, that will come.

With lots of free time on my hands over the past six months I have been able to explore a few new adventures and one of them will be discussed heavily here.  The Little Italian and I are embarking on a new journey three weeks from now when we leave the suburbs behind to start a new life in the city.  We'll tell you about it here.  There will be pictures.  I may write a poem or two.  It will be awesome.  But to keep you occupied until my next post I must paint a picture with words........

I woke up this morning to find my cat standing in my frying pan.  The frying pan was on the stove, the cat was in the frying pan.  Oh, the possibilities.  Think about that for a minute.  Cat goes into the litter box.  Cat does horrible, unspeakable things in the litter box.  Cat scrapes around a bit with her paws.  Cat stands in frying pan.  How many times have I washed my frying pan?  Seven.  Seven times.  And I'm going to wash it again right now.  Then I'm getting a dog.