An NKY ride, a 911 test drvie, a new baby and visits with friends

We were apparently successful at bringing some warm SE weather to Cincinnati with us as it was 55 degrees + on Saturday. I was eager to ride with Cinci friend and former training partner Melissa - and it was a great day for long, easy miles. So we met up with a small group of cycling friends at Lunken terminal for a 4.5-hour ride in northern KY. I was assured the ride would be tame enough, as the group was governed by John G on a fixed gear (42x15?). Here's a funny thing that I've noticed about moving away from places and returning to ride: it takes coming back to discover a great new route. We did a new-to-me ride to the Ryland Heights, KY area, including the Lambs Ferry loop - a very cool stair-stepping, switch-backy climb and descent with max grades of about 18%. So good to spend time chatting with Melissa, Drew, John M (thx for gifting to me the Assos tights!) and new-dad Paul. Here's a shot of Melissa and I at about 3hrs - yes, I'm having my second breakfast at that point:
After the ride and a little recovery, we went to John M's for a test drive of his on-the-market 911 (so fun), visited Paul & Peggy with new arrival Katarina (Congrats!), had dinner with Jeff & Kristin and drinks with Jim and Maria - such a fun, full day in Cincinnati.

Onward to the Other Queen City

On Friday, I made the cross-Ohio trip from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, where I would return the rental car and meet JNK, Bonnie and Tommy for dinner at Ruthai's Thai Kitchen on Mt. Lookout Square - a favorite Cincinnati restaurant within walking distance of 656 Delta. Speaking of, it was bittersweet to drive by the old house - the new owner hasn't bothered to take down the once-lush Boston Ferns hanging on the porch, which is shame since they are now undoubtedly dead.

It was great to catch up with Bonnie and Tommy for dinner, even if sitting tatami-style for the long dinner became a bit uncomfortable -- but I loved the sushi tuna & avocado salad that I have yet to find at any other Thai restaurant. Bonnie, we hope that your family holiday plans come together (better late than never!) and Tommy, we'll keep you posted on the January dinner party in Charlotte!

Pittsburgh, the Steel City

It was a great, successful trip to Pittsburgh. Travel to PA in December can really be a mixed bag weather-wise, but on this trip, it was wonderfully mild. I stayed in Oakland and enjoyed an early morning hike at the nearby Schenley Park - with a gorgeous view of the valley, rivers and skyline of downtown. A highlight of trip was getting dinner from one of my favorite local restaurants - Alla Famiglia - in the Southside/Mt. Washington area. I owe a big thanks to business colleague Steve E. for sharing this Pittsburgh gem with me.

"It takes two to speak the truth - one to speak and another to hear." Thoreau

I listen to music when traveling more than at any other time. It's a familiar comfort that keeps me company and gives me pause for reflection. Here's my faves playlist for this trip:
Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet from Girlfriend
Such Great Heights - Postal Service from Give Up
Hands - The Raconteurs from Broken Boy Soldiers
California Stars - Billy Bragg & Wilco from Mermaid Avenue
Venus - Air from Talkie Walkie
Stone on the Water - Badly Drawn Boy from The Hour of the Bewilderbeast
Pretty (Ugly Before) - Elliott Smith from From a Basement on the Hill
Blue Veins - The Raconteurs from Broken Boy Soldiers
What is the Light? - The Flaming Lips from The Soft Bulletin
A Fond Farewell - Elliott Smith from From a Basement on the Hill
The Shining - Badly Drawn Boy from The Hour of the Bewilderbeast
All I Need - Radiohead from In Rainbows
The Scientist - Coldplay from A Rush of Blood from the Head
The World can Wait - Over The Rhine from Films for Radio
Goodbye (This is not Goodbye) - Over The Rhine from Films for Radio
Jolene - The White Stripes from Blackpool Deluxe
Warning Sign - Coldplay from A Rush of Blood from the Head
I Will Sing You Songs - My Morning Jacket from It Still Moves
A Murder of One - Counting Crows from August & Everything After
A Feast of Friends - The Doors from An American Prayer, Scattered Sun
How to Fight Loneliness - Wilco from Summer Teeth
Guess I'm doing Fine - Beck from Sea Change

The Other Queen City

My holiday travels are in full swing. It began with a trip, first, to PA on Wednesday for a couple of days of work. I fly out of CLT often and always enjoy seeing this sculpture - not bad artwork for an airport! It is symbolic of Queen Charlotte, as Charlotte is the Queen City. When I moved to Charlotte this summer, I had a couple of moments of sheer confusion: Why would someone from NC order catering services from a Cincinnati bakery? Why would an obscure Cincinnati hobby shop have a second location in Charlotte? Having just moved from Cincinnati, the Queen City, I was surprised to learn that Charlotte, too, was regarded the Queen City. In the case of Cincinnati, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow referred to the city as the Queen of the West; in the case of Charlotte, the city was named in honor of the wife of King George III of England.


Petition for Parity in Cycling

Please show your support of the advancement of women's cycling by signing this petition. Thanks!

Commercialism at its best

I'm halfway through my stack of holiday shopping propaganda. It's a good thing that I've already started my Christmas shopping - I think it would be long after the holiday by the time I got through them all. Despite what a waste I think junk mail is in general, admittedly I do have fun flipping through the catalogs to see the latest trends in fashion and home decor ... but don't be fooled. These seasonal editions are shamelessly laced with guilt-laden rhetoric, such as: "Give the gift that shows her how much you love her"; "Show him how much you care"; "Give them warmth and love". Disgusting. I find that the more I look through the less inspired I am to buy anything at all.

Paradise Lost

After a week of record-high temps of 76-82 degrees and full-sun in Charlotte, winter, or fall atleast, is finally settling in. Yesterday was 45 with light misting rain and this morning a gray, windy 38. This is excellent training for my travel to PA, OH and MI next week!


More photos from Thanksgiving & Engagement Party

It was so great to see our Toledo friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday and the engagement party hosted by the Koury's (Thank You!)! I loved seeing everyone: my parents, the Kourys - especially all the kids - and all of the wonderful friends of the Kourys! Good Cincinnati friends Todd and Christie and Co. made the 4-hour trip from NKY to party with us - and to introduce beautiful baby Madison to us - thank you and congratulations!! I also loved catching up with Will, one of my best UT friends. (More photos to come, I think ... Mark K??)


There's no party like an office party ...

Good Soup

This time of year on of my very favorite recipes to make is this roasted squash soup. It is very simple (time and patience is needed for chopping up the squash, though!) and soooo healthy and I make a big enough batch to last a good week. There have been several times where I've stopped short of the puree and enjoyed it as a roasted vegetable dish instead of soup. The cilantro-walnut pesto is definitely worth the extra effort and easy to do while the squash is roasting. I typically choose butternut squash because it seems the easiest to work with (though I have picked up a variety of winter squashes at the farmers' market in the past and enjoyed the mix), always double the garlic requirement (for keeping the vampires away, of course) and this week I added a few leeks.
"There is a saying about soups in Southern Italy which translates to: Soup does seven things. It relieves your hunger, quenches your thirst, fills your stomach, cleans your teeth, makes you sleep, helps you digest and colors your cheeks. "


Movie Review

On Tuesday night, JNK and I went to an advanced screening of "The Golden Compass" ... it was part of a dinner-and-movie social group that JNK found out about and the free movie was showing at the within-walking-distance theatre. This was a best-intentions situation to try to further integrate into the Charlotte social scene ... unfortunately (and perhaps it should have been predictable?) it wasn't so much the young, culturally-sophisticated movie intellectual as much as a bunch of the comic-book-guy-from-the-Simpsons types. The demographic might have been influenced by the film choice - a fantasy film about a parallel universe. Very fun and entertaining if you enjoy the Lord of the Rings/Pans Labyrinth-type movies -- just be sure to check your expectations at the door if you are looking for epic or if you require a solid movie ending (this one is clearly set up for a sequel, but didn't leave me caring to continue on with the silly journey). For the record, we opted out of dinner with the group.

Clarks Summit, PA

Here's a great restaurant find if you're ever in the Clarks Summit, PA area - The State Street Grill. It's a fantastic local joint with great food and live music. My co-worker Beth and I LOVE eating there when we travel. Also check out the fantastic sushi at Kyoto - incredible fish at a great price.

(Yes, Clarks Summit is just north of Scranton; yes, the same Scranton of The Office; no, I don't watch the show regularly....)

Out of Control

Sometimes I am a closet control freak, sometimes a self-proclaimed-shout-it-from-the-rooftops control freak. Either way, I often struggle to have the patience that's needed to see how things play out, yet always seem to find myself enjoying the realities that are revealed along the way -- which are often serendipitous and better than what I can design for myself by my own control. Here are a few quotes I've recently discovered on the subject:

“Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go.” James Arthur Ray

“To approach the stranger is to invite the unexpected, release a new force, let the genie out of the bottle. It is to start a new train of events that is beyond your control...” T.S. Elliot

“To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy... is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them.” Ralph Waldo Trine


Riding the barriers isn't always so cool after all

Thanks to teammie Cara for finding this gem ...

And to Chris Sheehan for this one ...

Onward to Boone, NC ...

Today's NCCX tour stop was the Hawksnest Crossfest at the Seven Devils Ski Resort. As such, it was plenty hilly ... and there was a high-wind advisory: "...NORTHWEST WINDS WILL INCREASE TO BETWEEN 25 AND 35 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 65 MPH ... THROUGH MONDAY NIGHT. THE STRONGEST WINDS ARE EXPECTED ACROSS THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS..."(weather.com) neither element suiting me particularly well. I finished 4th; congrats to teammie Cara for another victory in the Women's A's!
Loved the trip - fantastic sweeping views of the Pisgah National Forest (home to fabulous MTB trails). Next weekend the tour will conclude with the final CX series race in Cary, NC.


Dobson, NC: The Tour Continues ...

Fellow Charlotte CX'er Ben Miller and I traveled to the Dobson, NC for the NC State Cyclocross Championship races today ... it was so beautiful there, and the 60+degree temperature was an awesome treat.
Presenting Ben, your 2007 NC Men's CX3 Champion! I was totally envious of his gold USCF metal ... I did win the Wm's B race, but it wasn't a USCF-recognized state championship race, so no gold metal for me. Thanks to Ben for cheering and snapping some photos of my race!

And look who's back in action! So fun to see Mark Heckman again - welcome back!


Scenes from Germanton, NC CX

My posse showed pretty well today: Cara took 1st in the Women's A race, JNK 5th in the Men's B race, Andy a super-impressive 1st in the Masters' and 4th in the Men's A (because 1 race isn't enough!), and yours truly 1st in the Women's B. For those keeping track of my collection of pink prizes for the season, I scored a pair of rather strange yet cute pink sunglasses. The flyer for the race called it a 'Swiss-Style Grass Course' and 'The Potato Patch' (whatever that means) ... here are some photos proving the course was as hilly as I've complained that it was: