Monday, March 26, 2007

Spittal - god of suffering

Strasburg Road Race - 2007 Lancaster County, PA 40+ winner

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Drunken Amish with no Friends Bread

It tasted better with some hazelnut spread. Hum. And the guys loved it but who wouldn't after a hard bike race. I had the opportunity to practice video recording with my camera at the Strasburg RR this morning - I will post them later.

March Madness

My double wide - basketball-like arse, auburn hair color for $1.64 (thank goodness my original hair color is black), $*%$& friendship (amish cinnamon) bread, shopping mindlessly after work on a Friday night (oh so painful on the wallet, mind and body and sight with six swim suits in hand; reminded myself that it's March damn it and bought the suit(s!) not all 6 but close), the weather, and this darn blogging-it's very time consuming. Go Ducks!!!!!

Friendship (Amish Cinnamon) Bread

Eight days ago a dear friend of mine left a bag of goop for me in the spin room. I knew exactly what it was - I cursed and through the blob in my bag. It's damn friendship bread. How could I not follow through on this torturous "chain-letter" like experience. Yet, I am getting over a major cold, had been so "Monkish" about germs all winter and I have a bag of milk, sugar, flour shlopping around the house, un-refridgerated.

So I squeeze the bag every day for 4 days. On day 6, I add 1 cup of milk (all I have is soy), 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour (of course I start to health it up with whole wheat) and squeeze it some more.

I squeeze the damn bag several times again for another three freakin days.

Day 10 - I get to make the bread. Great. I did mindless shopping and did not get home until 8:30, starving, tired and had to pee like a banshee. I take care of business, eat, hot tub, ready the house (GS Lancaster/Spinners guys will be meeting at our house for their first bike race of the season - Strasburg Road Race tomorrow). I do not like going to bed with a messy kitchen. Oh, and I like to have a clean kitchen and empty sink when I bake or cook. Grrrrrr. That damn bread. I should have just composted it.

10 O'Clock. I began the process with the March madness in the background with those crazy air horn/buzzers. "In a large non-metallic bowl, (damn-as I am typing this I used the wrong bowl-I used a Metallic bowl, %*$*) combine the batter with 1 cup each of milk, sugar and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon (I did and I did not like it-I prefer using a big metal fork as I do not own a KitchenAid). Pour 1 cup starter batter in four 1-gallon ziplock bags. Give to 4 friends with instructions." I skipped this part. I'm such a procrastinator that those 4 bags would be sitting in my kitchen and I'd have to make more bread in a week and a half.

With baking, you really shouldn't deviate from the recipe. I am a rebel. I totally deviated from the recipe as it called for cups of sugar and boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix (never have that stuff around the house)

So I had a little fun.

"To the remaining batter add: 1 cup oil, 1 cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding mix, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp cinnamon."

My scary version:
1/2 cup canola oil, 1 banana, 1/4 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup briar rabbit molasses, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup of rum
1 egg, 1/2 cup of fat free plain yogurt
I did not mess with the 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt (I like salt)
1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup soy milk
not a fan of cinnamon so I left it out.

"Grease two loaf pans WELL and bake at 325 for 1 hr or until done. You may add 1 cup of apples, nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips"

I added 1/2 cup each of rolled oats, chocolate chips, semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, pecans and cranberries.

I fantasized about my banana bread from weeks ago and was hoping this batter would come close. Hum. Not quite. Crap. I just saw that I was not supposed to use metal utensils, either. Oh, well.

In the oven by 10:30 - out by 11:35. I have a taste and wonder why I wanted to add rum. It may be a bit gooey since I did not use "3 large eggs". It is not bad but I am not sure if it is good. It may be okay and that's not good in my house. I want to be salivating. I will try another taste in the morning when it has cooled down. Maybe I added more than a 1/4 cup of rum. I could smell it pouring out of the bread. I think I will call my bread: Drunken Amish with no Friends Bread.

Maybe I will have Brad's teammates taste test it for me, too. As long as I don't get sick in the middle of the night from the slice I had earlier. he, he.

Thanks, Marcy. I still love ya but I could not continue the bread chain. Buonas noches.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cookies and Wine

It snowed last weekend and my work closed early on Friday so I stopped by Central Market to pick up the essentials for the potential of being snowed in; veggies, chicken, turkey sausage and a couple dozen homemade cookies from Wendy Jo's stand. Even though I would probably have all the time in the world to bake cookies, I am still feeling down and out with a cold for one TOO many weeks.

Cranberry, white chocolate macadamia nut; chocolate walnut; frosted sugar; chocolate dipped peanut butter; oatmeal chocolate chip raisin and regular chocolate chip. Ummmmmmm. And she makes homemade peanut butter eggs this time of year, too. Now that's my kind of religion - peanut butter eggs and chocolate covered marshmallow peeps!

Thank goodness the snow melted and I rode my bike outside today. Key word: OUTSIDE! I guess the other key words are "rode my bike" period. I dusted off those cookies yesterday morning. Had to get them out of the house. Hopefully it will not snow anymore this spring because I do not need anymore of those meltdowns of stocking up on cookies.

Tonight we dusted off a bottle of Castle Rock 2005 Pinot Noir (Monterey County) over dinner with a good friend. Take time to breath life in and let it sit. Life is precious.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Daylight Savings

So far moving daylight savings ahead by a month has been great for us. The weather has cooperated and it will be in the mid 60s this week.

I caught a cold after our vacation and was finally feeling better this weekend. (Imagine that! Not riding for a month outdoors because of the crappy weather then I go and ride like a wild woman for 6 days straight. No possibility of getting sick. Right.) I taught spin class at Tim's Gym in
Lititz on Saturday and was a bit labored with my breathing so I opted to do a 4-mile run with some girlfriends I don't see often. First mistake: Running. I do not run. Second mistake: running. I had a great time with my friends but all I could think about was how sore I was going to be for the next few days. At least I rode to our meeting point (3 miles) hoping that would loosen up my legs after the run. Ha!

Today we rode our "Sunday Ride". A 40-mile rolling loop. A bit chilly on the lungs at 10:30 a.m. with 45 degrees and some wind. A lot of wind, I must say for someone coming off of a head cold. I rode solo for the last half and thought about food the whole time. It is amazing how much the wind and the cold can take it out of you. I planned dinner while I was riding because I tend to obsess what the next meal will be. I finally arrived home, dropped the bike on the back porch, hobbled into the house because I could not walk from the frickin' running I did yesterday and devoured a third of a banana bread I made weeks ago for our Asheville adventure.
I made three loaves and froze two for moments like these. I piled on Nutella and I came back to life.

One of the main reasons I created this blog is to share my love of riding and food. Riding makes me want to cook and eat a lot, especially in the winter months. I hardly ever follow a recipe to a tee. I usually alter it, especially to make it healthy.

Banana Bread:
Take any favorite banana bread recipe and health it up with some whole wheat flour instead of white. Try the recipe with half white flour and half whole wheat flour. This last batch I used all whole wheat and it was not too dense. I cut back on the sugar by a 1/4 cup. I actually ran out of butter and substituted some applesauce. Used eggs whites instead of the whole egg. I put in 3 different kinds of chocolate chips (1/2 c each of white, semi-sweet and choc), pecans and craisins.

While I was riding, I planned to have the steaks in the freezer. Rice, potatoes, I didn't care. Veggies, we didn't have anything fresh. I just knew I wanted those steaks.

I pulled out the steaks, took forever to finalize the blog-thing and we went shopping for the week. We normally don't go food shopping together. I think it is a waste of time. One can shop, the other can do something else around the house. I guess every once in a while it is great bonding time, like eating dinner together. We don't have kids so we eat together all the time and it is a plus that we both love to cook.

The steaks didn't thaw. So I wanted to eat about half of what we bought today.

We keep our cooking simple. We did the usual stir-fry in a big skillet: olive oil, garlic, onions, button and shiitake mushrooms, red peppers and asparagus. We bought fresh Hong Kong style pan fried noodles from an Asian market down the street. boiled in less than 5 minutes. Ymmmm. Any kind of noodles go great with this veggie stir-fry. We tend to use a lot of olive oil, too, so we pour the mixture over our noodles.

While that was going on - we baked cajun-seasoned catfish for 15-20 minute at 400. When the fish is fresh, it is about done when it starts to "sweat".

I make my own cajun-seasoning from Paul Prud'Homme recipe I got out of one of the small picture cookbooks that are outside the bookstores for cheap (that was before the internet explosion). I quadruple the recipe and put it in a mason jar so we are set for months. We use it on all of our fish and meats.

1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
(After typing this recipe, it may be the only recipe I do not alter.)

Hummmmmm. An easy dinner in an hour. I'm happy.

We opened one of the bottles of beers we bought in Asheville. Golden-Draak Ale for $11.29 for a 750 ml.

I don't think I mentioned all the beer we bought while on vacation. It was like we were in Belgium and we horded all the beer we could. Here, we do not have the selection or the lower prices. Anytime I travel out of Pennsylvania, I am checking out the prices of beer and wine. In Pennsylvania we have a liquor control board. The website makes it look pretty but we pay a lot more for beer, wine and spirits. Here is an idea of how the prices can vary:
I have bought Chamay (750 ml) for $13 in PA and paid around $7 in Asheville.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Final Day in Asheville, 2/24/07

Lunch - Rosetta’s Kitchen; another yummy vegetarian restaurant. I had my fix for French fries with a small basket of Cajun seasoned sweet potato fries with a Cajun flavored ketchup. Man, I do not like ketchup but this stuff was tasty! Brad had a bowl of Coconut Thai Tofu Bowl full of rice, peas, carrots. We then walked to Bruisin’ Ales and spent more money on Belgian ales to add to our collection from our Ingles Grocery Store purchase of wine and ales.

Saturday night we met the more amazing people now living in Asheville. The women alone had world records and wins in mountain biking, solo races and awesome race results and experiences from all over the world which also including speed skating. Jason and Jody (Kosinski) Smith invited us over for beer and pizza. We met Jason with Andy the morning of the training race. Jody used to race for Genesis Scuba. Before that she speed skated on for the national team back when she grew up and lived in the Boston area. I think Jason and Jody moved to Asheville from Atlanta about three years ago. They have an amazing house where part of the original house was built back in the 1800s before the Grove Park Inn was built. It is on the 5 – 6% climb up Sunset Drive and the house has a breathtaking view of the city and mountains of Asheville. They recently renovated their carriage house to host friends and family, especially cyclists looking to ride in the area. I think we will be reserving a week there next year.

Merci Beaucoup, Asheville.

Saturday Training Series 2/24 in Greenville, SC

Circuit Race - Donaldson Center (Industrial Park) Master's 35+ had over 90 guys for 42 miles of racing with a purse of $250 going 6 deep. My race had 52 women! Awesome. I'm moving south! for 35 miles with a purse of $200 going 4 deep. I stuck my nose in the wind the first few laps but played it safe and got a great training ride in for 1:43 w/an AHR at 172 (long week of riding). Saw Brad pass my field with 3 laps to go in his race. Of course, he was off the front with one other guy.

What I remember is that they got away as they passed my field. Then four riders bridged up to them and hammered for the rest of the "training" race. At one point, one guy turned to Brad and said, "So what are you going to do?" They were all rotating but I think when it was six guys and Brad was tired, he missed some rotations. He doesn't like to give away a race so did not say much. Brad doesn't sprint. And when it came time, he tried and got 6th. Results say 5th but he got paid for 6th.

1 Douglas Pomeranz tri star Atlanta, GA
2 Christopher Thomas Moto-Velo/Sledgehammer Charlie's Racing Stony Point, NC
3 Jason Sprouse Unattached Asheville, NC
4 Roy Simmons Category One Cycles Roswell, GA
5 Brad Ober GS Lancaster/Spinners Cycling Lancaster, PA
6 Steven Carrell Memorial Health/Team One Norcross, GA

Friday - Elk Mt. TT

My post to the Asheville Bicycle Racing Forum:

Re: Elk Mountain Time Trial 2006-07 "reply #17 on Feb 23, 2007, 9:48 pm"
The northern snow birds rode in a blustery head wind up Elk Mt this morning. Snow and ice all gone at the top. 32:21 zone 4/5; max for 2007 - 183 at the dip to climb to those $%*$*^ rocks. Michele

Brad Ober rode a 26:05

Food -
Thai Coconut Chicken soup – Brad’s lunch at Doc Chey’s while I was getting my massage with Paula. When Brad left for his massage, I walked downtown to eat. First stop, Espresso & Chocolate Mousse torte – at Old Europe Bistro. Bought 5 truffles for $10 plus some chocolate rounds, a chocolate carmel and two HUGE chocolate dipped strawberries at the Chocolate Fetish. (We ate all but the chocolate rounds) Then I walked to the Jerusalem Garden Café for a glass of Trapiche Cab (Argentinian) and Spinach Pie. I needed to save room for dinner at the Laughing Seed.

We end up staying at the Best Western - Woodfin. Let's just hope their renovations make the place nicer. Much better than the Roach Motel but we were missing our comforts of the B&B.

We both had the best massages from Paula Marzella. She used to be a soigneur for Saturn, Motorola, US Postal Service, CSC and Toyota-United. Brad walked around town after his massage and we met up to eat at the Laughing Seed. I had Shiitake Corn Cakes, Indian Potato Soup and a vege sushi with Portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, avocado and rice (Miyabizushi). Brad had a Tempeh Napoleon – a bowl full of veggies in curry sauce. I hada Seed Cosmopolitan - Stoli Ohranj shaken with fresh lime juice, Cointreau, and cranberry juice. Garnished with a fresh orange wheel and Brad drank a Green Man Porter.

So Brad hemmed and hawed about racing Saturday's training race in Greenville, SC. I was up for it before we left Lancaster. Brad called Andy to see when he would leave. Andy emailed us the race info just in case we missed him. I email him back that we were in - and would see him in a.m. to follow him down to Greenville, SC. I told Brad to get his beauty sleep 'cause we racing! I putzed and packed for Saturday. Woohoo! Brad was still not sure he wanted to race. He wanted to do a long ride to Mt. Mitchell. I would love to do that ride, too, but it would be boring for him with me in toe - all the other guys would be racing - or had family obligations on Saturday. So there went going out to the Jack in the Woods for live music Friday night. Damn. I am coming back to Asheville, for sure.

The Challenge - Elk Mt TT

Brian Jones does this "post your own time" The Elk Mountain Time Trial.
The email for 2007 - It's back!!!! With one change:HANDICAPPING the FAVORITES.

Favorite 20 to 40 minutes of "pain cave time"
You know you want to do it, you know you need to do it, you know you're going to do it.

This year I'm donating great prizes:
A $50.00 dollar gift certificate for a tattoo at Mans Ruin and a
$50.00 dollar gift certificate for a body piercing at Man's Ruin.

Man and Womens division (you can flip for the prize of choice).
Same format as last year, self timed from North end of bridge at intersection of Beaverdam and Elk Mountain to the top at buzzards rock ( you'll know when you reach the top of the climb).
post your times here. Ride it as often as you like.
Dates from 12/24/06 through 2/28/07. (now extended to 3/31/07)
Awards to be handed out at Jack of the Woods on a tbd Tuesday nite.

ONE CHANGE: the following local stars will carry a 1:20 handicap:
Andy A, Dave G, Jason S, Hugh Moran. This should tighten up the final standings.
Good luck to all. Brian Jones

Endurance ride to Marshall, NC

We rode from the B&B northwest towards a dry town called Marshall. We did a little off-road checking out some land for sale that one of the guys wants to buy. I was glad for an “easy” ride but those rollers, gusts of wind at 40+ mph and the ugly dogs made my legs hurt. AHR 150 for 3 hours. We had expresso at Zuma’s in Marshall and rode back RT251 along the French Broad River. Brad took the helm and laid it down. I think I hung for 10+ minutes with my heart rate hovering around 175. When I started to feel the screws get tighter in my hips and the gusts of wind blowing at us around the bends in the road, I POPPED! Brad, Brian and Fred hammered back to Asheville for the final 12 miles along the river. At one roller, Brad and Fred eased up and Brian was having none of it. As it goes in any ride back home, Brad and Fred dropped their heads chasing Brian down. Last man standing wins. I rolled in about five minutes behind (yea, that's what I remember!) at an AHR 165.

Doc Chey’s
Again, I wanted to eat and drink everything on the menu. Bought a cool long sleeve tee-shirt for my traditional souvenir from my travels. Darjeeling Green Tea, Nebasuki Soba, Thai Basil Chicken and Chinese wok seared green beans cantonese sauce.

Thursday was the day we had to choose another place stay for Friday and Saturday night. We had thought of going home the long way to visit Blowing Rock, NC, but I was starting to get the vacation blues and did not want to leave Asheville. The prices go up on the weekend, we were at the end of our vacation so I began to feel cheap. I picked a "Days Inn" after searching Travelocity as it had a rate of $65 a night (not including the 11% tax). Our B&B rooms were an average $145 and we got the "procrastinator's special". The Days Inn was right around the corner from the Grove Arcade and I could do some last minute tourist stuff. Hum. I decided to check one of the rooms before we booked our reservation. Concrete was falling off the building. It looked like it was built in the 1960s. You enter the room from the outside. I booked a room for two nights and Brad asked how did the room look. Did it smell? I said, "Well, it smelled, but not bad. I think." I was worried because I could not figure out the smell. They had potpourri on the nightstand so it was an odd smell. We both had the hotel on our minds at dinner and asked the waitress if she knew anything about the Days Inn. "The Roach Motel?" Okay. That was all we needed to hear. After dinner, we hung out at the B&B in our Garden Vista room for one last night. Canceled the hotel reservation and surfed for another hotel. I had high hopes of going back out to hear some bluegrass or any live music but Brad was in for the night. Bugger.

Biltmore Estate

We hussled after the Craggy Mt. ride to shower so we could do a power-tourist-trip to the Biltmore House. The Estate is open until 4 pm, the House allows the last guest to enter at 4:30 pm, the Winery closes its doors at 6 pm (winter hrs). We get there at 2 pm; start the audio tour at 2:30 pm and barely finish around 5:30 so we bee-line to the Winery so we can taste lots of sips of wine. The Biltmore Estate is a MUST SEE. All we had time for was the House and we highly recommend the audio tour. It features 62 rooms with 21 additional in-depth topics. Brad and I would time it that we would listen to the same "numbered room". I made it though 2/3rds of the tour and had to go to the bathroom. Out of ALL the bathrooms in the House - you cannot use any of them. You have to exit the House (drop off the audio tour), go to the stable now converted to shops and restrooms. You may re-enter the house and pick-up the audio tour again but the House is SO huge I could not stop now. I was soooo close to finishing the tour. I was in the basement, the hottest room in the house. So I sat on a bench as I mentally hit the wall; my legs were tired and all I could think about was having to pee. I waited for Brad as we were in the Halloween room and it had old photographs of the construction of the House. I was sweating; totally distracted by my situation. I had to leave him and quickly finish the audio tour. I listened to all the rooms in the basement but did not get to take them in fully. Make sure you have a full day to see the House. Visit in the spring or fall; the gardens and landscaping must be amazing. You can horse back ride and the have bike paths all over the estate property. The place is just overwhelming. We will be back.

Rachel, Andy Pooser's wife, actually had an internship in the mid-1990s at the Biltmore House doing textile conservation. At one point, she had planned to do a research fellowship at the Winterthur in Delaware. Then she met Andy and is living happily in Asheville.

Craggy Mountain (Wednesday 2/21's ride)

Craggy Mountain 40+ miles
Every road goes up. Sunset Rd/Dr (click on the "lower Town Mt." link for the windy climb of Sunset Rd/Dr) to Town Mountain Rd to Craggy Mountain. I could not believe I could climb in zone 2 while we rode up Sunset Rd. Once we got past the closed gate off on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it was mile marker 375? And I made it past Craggy Gardens (364 at an elevation of 3800+) to mile marker 366 and the guys continued to the top of Craggy Mountain at 5233’. I rode in my 39-21 for most of the 6% grade. It started to get cold about 4000’. I tried to keep my heart rate in zone 3 (150-165) but my head was cracking in the solitude of the climb. I could hear my tires grabbing the minuet gravel in the asphalt. It was great having the whole road to descend. It took me about an hour to climb and 25 minutes to get back to the gate. My wrists were sore from sitting in the drops. About a mile or so from the gate we saw a NCParks truck going up so we tightened up as he opened up the road to Craggy Mountain. It would have been ugly if one of us were over the yellow descending like a bullet.

Food – Barleys Taproom
We met Andy and his beautiful family, Rachel and their two kids Audrey (7) and William (3). Longest list of beers on tap and pretty good pizza. We had a large all-american and a large greek pizza. Brad had a French Broad Goldenrod Pilsner and a Brooklyn Brewery Smoked Weissbock (not including the 32 oz Duvel he dusted off after the Craggy Mt. ride). Me, not so much drinking. I had maybe a glass of Brad’s Duvel and ordered a Terrapin Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout - GA. Oh, I think I ate one of the "cup cakes" immediately after the ride.

Music - I finally go to hear live bluegrass/old time music at the French Broad River Brewery by Jeffrey Angeley and Benares Finan-Eshelman. And wouldn't you know, Benares's dad is from Lancaster, PA (Eshelman Mill "Eshelman"). They are working on a name for the band. I will keep you posted. Here's a quick video I posted on YouTube from the jam.

Food in Asheville

Sunday night: Mela Indian Restaurant
It was the first real food in the last 12 hours. Oranges, pb&j and rice chips helped us make good time to Asheville.
1 Allagash beer, 1 Highland porter both good, spinach goat cheese naan, entrées – Mela Lamb and Kozi Milagu Chettinad (hot), more naan (garlic), two more beers (Kwakk-Belgium and Palma Louca-Brazilian?) Awesome.

B&B breakfasts: So far have begun with a muffin. I don’t remember what kind we had on Monday; yesterday was blueberry, today cinnamon swirl. Oh, did I mention we get “tea cakes” in the afternoon? Sunday we had chocolate chip cookies, Monday, chocolate frosted mocha loaf & pecan bars, yesterday – Chocolate frosted chocolate cup cakes. They are still sitting in our room because Brad says we cannot eat them. Wait until we get back from the today's (Craggy Mt.) ride. Yum! The “middle course” of breakfast has been some kind of fruit. Yesterday was a baked peach (o so yummy) in a champagne cream sauce and today was cooked pineapple with craisins in a zinfandel sauce. Oh the sugar rush. Monday’s third course for breakfast was very light waffles with Jimmy Dean sausage. I had two servings (mistake #1) they were so good. I figured they melted in my mouth that I would be okay riding. Ha! I was wrong. My belly was in the way the whole time on Monday riding Elk Mt. Scenic that if any dog chased me down, I would be dog food for the day. Yesterday was an egg frittata with onions & cheddar cheese and a side of sautéed herbed potatoes. Today (Wed 2/21), spicy bacon with almond crusted French toast. The other couples at the table did not finish their two pieces of French toast. I thought, I’ll take care of that but I held off; probably not proper etiquette. Oh, and did I mention the damn little candy dishes with Hershey nuggets all other the house?

Monday night dinner was at an Asian place called the Noodle Shop. They had maybe eight tables that sat between two to four people. Asheville is hopping downtown and the waits can be as long as 1 1/2 for a place to eat if they are small like this restaurant. We had calamari, a dish of soy beans, tofu Pad Thai and I had Da Lu Noodle - Vegetable broth prepared with spinach, tomatoes, bean curd slices, carrots, scallions, cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash, nappa, cilantro, and eggs. Served with your choice of noodles. (Vegetarian)

Tuesday we ate at Salsas . I had the best margarita yet. Citrus-infused haberno flavored margarita. We both had specials. I stayed vegetarian because I am off-setting it with all the pastries, chocolate and breakfasts. Ha! I’m still pudgy but happy. Brad had the pork enchilada with slow roasted pork, roasted peppers, eggplant, coconut sauce, and melted smoked cheese served with rice, beans and salad. I cleaned up a bowl of stuff chayote. I think all the meals come in a big white bowl so they can pile it high. My stuffed chayote was a brazilian squash filled with roasted carrots and sautéed mushrooms, curry sauce and topped with goat cheese… with a side of rice, beans and salad. I actually got guacamole, beans and a tamale! Oh, and it was worth it. We drank some beers at Ed Boudreaux's Bayou Bar-B-Que to catch some Mari Gras Blues. We had samples of Mad Hat (not so good seasonal beers – they tasted a bit flowery).

I don’t know if I can keep up with all the restaurants and eating. This place is hopping. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday and I was keeping right in step with the “holiday”.

Riding in Asheville Monday and Tuesday 2/19, 20

Monday, we were on our own as the organized training rides do not get started until daylight savings. I printed some cue sheets from the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club web site before we left home so we were set if we could not find any group rides. Frank Obusek @ Liberty Bicycles hooked us up with great ideas for climbing plus he directed me to his site with topo maps. - Southern Appalachian Roads. We were psyched to climb Elk Mountain as the local pros do the TT up the 7-mile climb with one of the fastest climbs at 20+ minutes (Andy Applegate). I had the “Elk Mountain Scenic” cue sheet and the racers ride that loop backwards so they can climb Elk Mountain. We drove the loop because Asheville had rain and ice on Sunday. The climb was amazing. When we drove to the top, it was snowy, icy and sandy for quite a bit. Then the descent on the North side still had ice and sand and we did not want to ruin our vacation with crashing on our first day of riding so we opted out of the mountainous climb. We did an out and back of Elk Mountain Scenic ride – the club ride direction. When we got to Ox Creek Road at about 21.4 miles, we rode as far up as we could until we hit the ice and sand. When we turned around, we made the right decision as the water, ice and freezing air just coming down a minor grade with winding roads were sketchy. The temps on Monday got into the high 40s. Pretty much of the ride was rolling with one 2.7-mile gradual climb and another for 2 miles. We were stoked! I also subscribed to the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club Forum to see if anyone would reply to my goober-fredericka posts looking for locals to take us out riding. Andy Pooser called me and we were set for a ride with a group of guys for Tuesday. Woohoo!

We met Andy Pooser and Brian Jones down from our B&B at 10 a.m. We rode Riverside Dr/Route 251 NW. It reminded me of River Rd with the Stick (Scott Haverstick) guys. We did tempo for 25 minutes + because at the point there was a blip in the road with my heart rate hitting 174, I popped off. I won’t even torture y’all where my head was going because I knew we had at least another 2 + hours to go. Brian pushed me back to Brad and Andy as we rode to “Flat” Creek Road to meet Mike Jackson. Pee break number one as we met Mike. Hum. “Flat” Creek Road. I asked is it really flat? Mike said, “well, the road is flat compared to the dirt roads around here and there’s the creek”. Great. The ride was awesome. So far the roads are similar to PA except for a few more rollers that roll a little longer and higher. And the views are just amazingly beautiful with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. We rode about two and half hours on tempo rolling roads with lots of unchained dogs. One set of beagles chased us down. It was so funny as one was taking a crap and couldn’t decide to finish business or run us down. Another long-haired bear of a dog did circles around me as I tried to sprint from his gnashing teeth. Oh I am so slow. I think I saw the dog laughing as he ran around me. Brad found a fellow climber in Mike and he is going to take us out tomorrow to climb Craggy Mountain. They say it is an average 6% grade. I think we will be riding from 2200’ to 5322 ft at the top. I’ll try to give you a “fluffy” email about the ride. With all the fabulous food we have been eating – I am still a stuffed pig. Hopefully today's ride won’t be so bad as I have at least 3 hours to digest.

First Post - Vacation to Asheville, NC

We began our vacation February 17th traveling north to Crystal Lake XC Center on Saturday with the Lapps. Crystal Lake had at least a foot of fresh powder from the mid-week "Valentine's Day" storm. Brad and Doug skate skied and Barb and I skied traditional xc – and skied until our bodies could not move anymore; two hours. The trails were smooth, fast and rolling. There was one fast downhill that gave us a reminder of how much fun it is to “downhill ski” without waiting in lift lines. Then we had to climb out of the little valley back to the lodge. Doug went skate skiing again as we all crashed in front of the fireplace hogging the couches.

When we got back to Lancaster, I had high hopes of heading down south to begin our journey to Asheville, NC. A “layover” in Hagerstown, MD, with Brad’s brother would have given us a two hour head start for our Sunday drive. Well, I fell apart trying to “ready” the house for our trip. Packing the cooler and getting the biking gear ready put me over the edge. I had to let go of leaving Saturday night and compromise with leaving at 6 a.m. on Sunday for an 8+ hour drive. We packed the van as much as we could Saturday night. In the end, it was worth sleeping in our own bed.

It took Brad 8 hours to drive to Asheville with two stops. When Brad needed me to drive so he could rest his eyes, I ended up driving through a snow squall. Of course, when it was my time to drive, my eyes were heavy and the snow was blinding. Ugh. I managed to drive for an hour. Much better than our last driving vacation where I lasted 15 minutes behind the wheel.

We decided to not make any plans or reservations for this vacation as we did not know where we would end up. Brad picked Asheville as it was a doable day drive but we did not know if we would go further south for guaranteed warmth. I did last minute research on the web the night before we left so I would not be overwhelmed by 46 bed and breakfasts in Asheville. Luckily I received the "Explore Asheville" tourism guide that Saturday morning so I made all my notes about availability, prices, etc. I narrowed down our search to about 15 based on available rooms but most only had openings for a few days. With the prices of B&B in the USA a little steep, we were open to staying at a B&B for a limited time. Our key components for a B&B included wi-fi, Jacuzzi, safety for our bikes, convenience for riding and location to downtown. We arrived in Asheville around 2:30 to pick a B&B. Cumberland Falls Inn won our bid. We looked at A Bed of Roses, 1900 Inn at Montford, Carolina B&B and the Chestnut Street Inn. At the Cumberland Falls Inn, we had to stay in two rooms (with different rates-all reasonable as we got their procrastinator's special) which was really cool because it was a quaint B&B and all the rooms were inviting. We stayed in the Lion's Den for the first two nights and would move to the third floor to the Daydream room with sky lights for the rest of the stay (Sun-Thur). Cumberland Falls has met all our needs plus more. They are the only one with a three-course gourmet breakfast. I have been a stuffed pig riding through Asheville the last two days.