Friday, September 28, 2012

Sitting Here, Watching It Rain

When I went out to the garage this morning to take the trash out, I could no longer avoid eye contact with my two motorcycles, Fuzzy and Zooty.  I'd been making empty promises to them for two months now. 

"When are you going to take me out for a ride?  My rotors are rusting, my oil is stagnating, and the gas in my tank is getting stale."  Their pleas were getting quite pitiful.

As I walked the trash down to the curb, I felt the heat and humidity wrap itself around me.  It won't be long now before the better riding weather arrives in South Texas.  But then, as I walked back to the garage and entered the house, I had such a sudden pang of guilt that I went back into the garage, fired up the air compressor, and grabbed my tire gauge.  No point putting this off any longer.  Indeed, it could get costly if I wait any longer and one of them won't start.

Now I was on a mission.   Tires are aired up and the only thing to do now is go back in the house and get my riding gear on. "Whichever bike has the GPS cradle installed gets to go first," I said to myself as, now fully geared up in mesh pants, jacket, boots and helmet, I headed back out to the garage.   That turned out to be the BMW, so off she and I went, down 288 toward Lake Jackson. 

The further south I got, the darker the skies got, until I could easily see the curtain of rain just ahead.  I really didn't want to ride in rain today, so my route was decided for me as I exited onto Highway 35 in Angleton.   There's a very nice Buc-ee's gas station here, so I took advantage of that to fill the gas tank and go inside for the bathroom.  When I came back out, the rain clouds had advanced even closer to more than a mile away to the south.  My thought of riding west on 35 to FM-521 and then north was jettisoned in favor of just getting back onto 288 and heading north and back home. 

It did feel good to get out on one of the bikes.  As I rode along I tried to remember where I'd last taken the BMW.  And then horror struck me as I realized the last time she'd been ridden was in mid-July to the BMW rally in Missouri.  Well, that's just not right!

My intentions were to ride the BMW, get home, and then hop right onto the FZ6 and take her out.  How far south can I get before hitting that advancing wall of rain?  Let's find out! 

Back in the garage, I hopped off the BMW, moved the GPS over to the FZ, then hopped onto the FZ and started her up.  Like the good girl that she is, her inline-four motor sprang to life immediately when I touched the starter button. I rolled onto 288 going south and clearly the storm was heading my way.  Nope!  Not going to make it all the way to Angleton.  The next-best route would be to get off onto FM-1462, go over to Rosharon, and then north on FM-521. 

Can I make it?  Can I make it?  It's going to be close.  As I neared 1462 I was pretty sure I was about to ride right into it.  The tell-tale "white-out" just ahead and off a little to the west of me was a dead giveaway.   I definitely wasn't going to make it without getting wet.  I rode into it as soon as I got onto FM-521.  But it felt very good, cooling me down, and I was out of it within a few miles. 

On up to Highway 6, a stop at the Chevron station to get some of that Techron-laced fuel into my little girl's gas tank, and then back onto 288 for the few remaining miles. 

Apparently I got home none too soon....45 minutes ahead of the rain, to be exact.  The rains are now here!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Four Days Later...

I am amazed!  I honestly thought I'd be "used up" after running three half-marathons in three weeks.  I mean...all those miles!  And truth be told, my training hasn't been the greatest these last couple of searingly hot South Texas months.  But it seems this ambitious schedule has had no lasting detrimental effects.  And in fact, has set me up in good training position for the upcoming fall half-marathons in Wichita, Tulsa, and Scottsdale.
Crossing the finish line
Maple Leaf half marathon
Sure, I was stiff and creaky for a few days after doing the Maple Leaf Half Marathon in Vermont.  I blamed this on all those hills!  Yet the Nashville race course was every bit as hilly - maybe more so - and I had no stiff joints or sore muscles at all afterward.    I guess that Vermont course knocked the rust off.

Nashville Womens Half Marathon
I'm thinking that doing races with this frequency really isn't all that bad.  If I were training for a full marathon, I'd be putting these miles in and more, week after week, anyway.  I'm not sure I'd want to do it on a regular basis, though.  I do have a few back-to-back races scheduled in 2013, each with a week in between to recuperate.  Three in one month, though?  Not too sure about that!  But at least I know I could do it if I needed to.


Some of my 50-States half-marathon medals

Now that I'm home, and have had a chance to get caught up, get the new medals hung on my 50 States-50 Half Marathons medal rack, I have time to look ahead at what's coming up next.  Prairie Fire Marathon is coming up in October.  It's going to be a real treat!  Completely flat course, cool maybe even cold temperatures at the start.  The following month there's the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.  Another good one!

Always keeping my eye
out for photographers,
this one at the Nashville
Womens Half Marathon
crossing the finish line
Womens Half Marathon


I like getting my race photos when ever I can.  I guess it's further proof that I was actually there, that I didn't just have a bad dream.  And when I'm ridiculously old and living in an Assisted Living Center, I'll have something to show the great grandkids - and the young arrogant staff - that I'm more than just a senile, doddering old lady. 
I was once a runner!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Hills of Nashville Have Been Conquered!

I've officially slayed those Nashville hills and added another half marathon finisher's medal to my collection.   And I've colored in another state on my 50 States-50 Half Marathons map!

Race day morning greeted me with clear skies and temps in the mid 60's.  I gave myself plenty of time to get ready, eat some Cheerios and a banana, get hydrated and the bathroom duties completed before walking out the door of the hotel.  I joined many other runners as we walked down the hill toward Country Music Hall of Fame on Demonbruen Street where the race was starting.  These inner-city races, where I can walk down to the start line just minutes before the race starts, are really awesome!  No hanging around, no chance I might need to stand in a portapotty line.

Borrowed shamelessly from the
Women's Half Marathon Facebook page
This is a primarily all-female race.  There was a smattering of men, most of them running with wives or girlfriends, and even a few wearing matching skirts and tutu's.  Gotta love that!  It takes a real man to run a half-marathon, surrounded by women, wearing a tutu! 

So given that the field of runners were mostly women, it was a fairly large race.  Based on the bib numbers at packet pickup, I'm guessing close to 7,000 entrants.  They had us divided into 5 corrals at the start line and, because it was mostly all women, I was actually seeded into corral #4 based on my estimated completion time.  How cool is that?!  In a standard race, where corrals are used, I'm usually in the very last corral.

The route was fantastic!  It went through the downtown area, up past Vanderbilt University, through Centennial Park, and then picked up the very start of Natchez Trace.  We ran about a mile of the Trace and then worked our way over to Belmont Avenue and ran until we reached the bridge over 440 and then turned around and backtracked down Belmont.  Down the hill, a couple of zig-zags including a little loop called Music Circle, and back to the downtown area, around the capitol building, along the river with a great view as we came down the hill, and then down the very historic 2nd Street back to Demonbreun to the finish line.  A huge crowd waited for us, even us slower runners.  It was great.  The announcer even pronounced my hometown correctly!

It was a great race for me.  I was warned by someone who'd done it last year that it was VERY hilly, so I was prepared.  I also think the hills two weeks ago at the Maple Leaf Half in Vermont were a good warm-up for me.  But I do know that running three half-marathons in less than a month is a bit over-kill.  Nothing muscular or joint-related hurts today - the day after the race.  But when I finished the race yesterday, the soles of my feet felt for a while like they'd been smacked with a 2x4.  All that pounding, I guess, with little recovery time in-between races.  Nothing that getting out of my running shoes and into some comfortable Teva sandals couldn't fix.

Here's the ridiculously huge finisher's medal:

The finish is a very shiny, mirror-like metal. Pretty!

And here's what my U.S. map looks like now:  Eleven states now completed.

Next race:  Wichita KS Prairie Fire Marathon/Half Marathon

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting to Nashville...Getting Ready...

Poor Nyla!  She knew I was going away again, I could tell by the way she was hovering in the space between the living room and the breakfast room.  Don't worry peanut!  Mom won't be gone long.


There was nothing particularly magical about the morning leg of the first day's drive.  Just a nice sunrise and very pleasant temperatures...for a change.  A relatively easy drive through the center of Houston...for a change. 

When I got to Little Rock, though, I decided to take a slightly longer detour around the mess that is I-40 thanks to some serious construction about 30-40 miles east of the city.  I discovered this route while returning home from the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May.  It was my attempt to avoid the seriously backed-up traffic on I-40 and my one hour delay heading east earlier that week.  And it worked.  It's 20 miles longer but much more relaxed without all of the 18-wheelers and all the tailgating fast-lane drivers. 

Frank3.jpgIt's even somewhat scenic in parts.  Mile after mile of fields of ready-to-pick cotton.  The heavy equipment was out and about on the roadways and in the fields, and I saw quite a bit of equipment sitting at the ends of driveways, ready for use, possibly delivered there on loan or rental.  

Somewhere along the road east of Clarendon, I rounded a curve and came up behind a behemoth harvester, the width of its blades spanning the width of the two lanes of road.  It pulled over to the right as much as it could, but I still had to drive on the opposing lane's shoulder to clear it.  When I looked at it in my rearview mirror after passing it, got a view of it from head-on, I immediately thought, "It's the raging 'bull' named Frank, from the movie Cars!"

Even with this detour I made good time, driving 680 miles in 11 hours, including numerous stops along the way for gas, for food, for water, to argue with the GPS, or for nothing in particular...just to stop.  And I had no idea how my time compares to what it would have been had I stayed on I-40, or had I taken the Arkansas DOT-suggested bypass onto US 70 and shared it with hundreds of 18-wheelers, but I didn't's that for a stress-relieving detour?!

I spent the first night in Brownsville TN and had an easy 180 or so miles the next morning to Nashville.


My hotel room in Nashville wasn't ready yet (after all, it was only 11:30 AM) so I left my bags with the front desk and then walked to the convention center and the Women's Half Marathon Expo to get my race packet, which came in this really excellent reusable tote bag: 
The weather was, in one word, Glorious!  Comfortable temperatures, very low humidity, perfect blue skies.  After getting my race packet and leaving some money behind in the official event logo shop, I walked across the street and picked up a sandwich at Panera to take with me.  Then a nice walk up the hill to the top, where the Tennessee Capitol building looks out over the city and the Cumberland River.

It's a pretty building, not typical of many others.  It overlooks a very attractive large plaza. 

The city of Nashville decided that, rather than aggrandize politicians, they'd honor their native sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country in war.  It was very well-done. 
Here's the Korean War Memorial:

Here's the Vietnam War Memorial, in front of the entrance to the War Museum:

But here's my favorite view of that Vietnam War Memorial...the solders are keeping watch over the polished marble wall that contains the names of all Tennessee native sons lost in that war.  The statues are reflected in that polished marble, watching themselves as if to say, "I am here, brothers."

It was getting close to 1:00 PM, and I was hungry.  I walked back to my hotel, Homewood Suites, to check on my room status (still not ready) and sat in the very plush dining area and ate half my sandwich, while watching CNN news on one of the giant flat-screen TV's mounted in the room.  I saved the other sandwich half for an evening snack.   It's a very architecturally interesting hotel, occupying the historic Doctor's Building on Church Street.  The rooms are exquisite and if I ever find myself back in Nashville, this is definitely where I'll stay.

Once I got into my room, I examined my purchases from the Race Expo and decided I liked the half-zip fleece so much, I walked back over to the convention center and bought another, in a different color.  Silly me!!

Time to get off my feet, surf the 'net, watch something on TV, get my running clothes laid out and ready, set my phone alarm, and then chill out. 

Tomorrow:  Race day!!  And then a drive up to New Castle IN for Founders Feast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Need Some Miles!

It's a good thing I have a half-marathon coming up on Saturday.  I need the motivation. 

You see, I haven't run a single mile since doing the Maple Leaf Half Marathon on September 8.   The next three days after that race were spent in my SUV, racing to get home after a very long 2 weeks on the road.  Then, once home, I was feeling pretty-well spent, physically.   I blame it on all of those Vermont hills.

It was pathetic how I creaked every time I got out of the car to get gas on my way home from Vermont.  It was pathetic getting out of bed for the next couple of days after getting home, too.  Every joint in my body from the waist down went on strike while I was asleep.  It took a few pathetic steps and a couple of Advils before I could walk like anything other than an orangutan when I got out of bed in the morning.  Thankfully it didn't last long.

Looking at my running log, I realized I'd run 40 miles in the two weeks spanning the two back-to-back half marathons that I ran this month.  That's 20 miles a week two weeks in a row.  I haven't done that much mileage in a two-week stretch since I gave up running full marathons. 

Even in the weeks building up to a half-marathon race, I might do one long run of maybe 10 or 11 miles, and then a couple of 4 or 5 mile runs one week.  But then I'd take a step backward the following week and do maybe a 7 mile long run and a couple of 4 or 5 mile runs, so that my total for two weeks might reach 36 or 37 miles at the most.  Gak!!  No wonder I've had no desire to put some miles in, these last few days. 

However, the urge to get out there and run is building...I can feel it in my bones. 
The Women's Half Marathon in Nashville is just three days away! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alaska in June 2013 is a Go!!

Finally!!  I'd been watching and waiting...waiting for registration to open for:

wait...wait...wait...check the website...wait...wait...wait...check the website. 

And then, just like that!  I checked the website a couple of days ago and there it was! 

"Registration is open"


Not that I was over-eager or anything (yeah, right!), but I'd already kinda guessed what the date would be for the 2013 race (Saturday closest to Summer Solstice).  And based on this, I'd gone ahead and booked my airfare and my hotel room in Anchorage.  Optimistic, I know, but I truly believed that this was going to happen.  And if it didn't?  I'd just go, anyway.  Was I worried?  Was I worried that I'd miss the opening of registration, miss my chance to run in this race?  Heck yeah!!

But it did happen...the race will be back for 2013, I didn't miss registration, and I'm registered!! 

Here's the significance of running this half-marathon:  I'll celebrate a major birthday milestone in Anchorage, running a half marathon in a very pretty state, a state I've never been to before.  And get to do it on my 65th birthday.  OMG!  I'll be 65 years old!  I'll officially be OLD.  I'll officially be on Medicare.

Damn!  I can't wait!

Friday, September 14, 2012

OOPS! Nashville Just Jumped Onto the Calendar!

Well, it's not like it was totally unexpected.  I mean...I had it "penciled in" on my calendar since January. 

But then a change to the MTF Founder's Feast date - pushing it back a week, from the 15th to the 22nd - created some interference.  So there I was, sitting on the fence, totally undecided what to do.  When registration opened for Founders Feast I went ahead and registered.  I even went ahead and booked a motel room.  These are easily cancelled but not-so-easily added at the last minute. 

However, the Nashville thing was still sitting there on my calendar, waiting for me to make a decision.  I was conflicted, because I really wanted to be in Nashville that weekend.

What is this Nashville thing?  It's the Women's Half Marathon race in that city...part of a series of races held in several cities around the country.  In fact, I was registered to run the one in St. Petersburg FL last November.  I had even traveled to FL, had my room booked.  But a bad chest cold that just wouldn't go away caused me to cancel just two days before the event.  It was a disappointment because this is a really cool race.  With a really cool finisher's medal.

So in January, when I decided I would go for a 50 states-50 half marathons quest, I immediately penciled the Nashville race onto my calendar because I really wanted to do one of these Women's Half Marathon races.   I knew that I would be getting the state of FL two months later by doing one of the Gulf Coast series races - the one in Pensacola - and that I already had earned the state of California when I did Big Sur with my son several years ago.  That made the Nashville race in this series the logical choice.

Now, nine months later, I was still conflicted.  I still wasn't sure I wanted to go to Founders Feast, yet wasn't sure I wanted to pay the high registration fee for a race I wasn't sure I could fit into the schedule.  Until yesterday.  Now that I was home after my big trip to the Northeast, I had time to turn my attention to the trip to Indiana for Founders Feast, to decide once and for all what I wanted to do, to work on a route to get there and hotel reservations enroute.  It was then that I realized it was entirely possible to do the half marathon in Nashville and still make it to Founders Feast in Indiana. 

The race was still open for registration.  The official headquarters hotel was totally full but I found a hotel room nearby...still within walking distance of the start/finish line.  Hot diggity!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back to Reality

I'm home...and reality hits.  No more maid service in hotel rooms, no more meals cooked and delivered to my table.  And no more spectacular mountains, lush evergreens, beautiful scenery.

I came home to find my Althea in full bloom (it's about time!) and a family of hornets moving into their new home on my front entry.  I came home to no food in the fridge, cat hair everywhere, full-to-overflowing kitty litters, a suitcase filled with 15 days' worth of dirty clothes...I want a "do over!"

I know that's not going to happen, so it's back to reality and to my normal life.   

I also came home to a non-functioning AT&T U-Verse, which meant no phone, no internet, and no TV.  I could handle the no phone part...after all, I have a brand-new Samsung Galaxy S3!  I could even handle the no internet, since my Sprint internet card and my 4G LTE phone could easily handle my internet needs.  But no TV?  Are you kidding me??  I'm going to miss the second of three nights in a row of The Voice!  Totally unacceptable!

Two AT&T service calls later, and I'm back in business on Wednesday evening (knock on wood). 

I was so road-weary when I got to Hattiesburg MS on my way home Monday night that I wasn't even sure I wanted to stop in Mandeville to visit my daughter-in-law and grandkids.  Pretty pathetic, right?  But a night's sleep and I re-adjusted my mind-set, so called my daughter-in-law to arrange a meet for coffee and pastries....a quick little detour into Mandeville.  It was easy and fun, and I'm so glad I did.

But once back on the road to Houston, I was again desperate to get home.  Home to my cat, home to my own bed, home to my private sanctuary.  Once home, I put the service call in to AT&T, got the laundry started, grabbed a bite to eat, and gave my full attention to my love-starved kitty.

My two additions to my half-marathon collection now hang proudly on my 50 States-50 Half Marathons medal rack.

 For me, a road trip is fun until it is no longer fun.  Then it is torture!  So glad to be home!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vermont is Added to My Half-Marathon Quest!

Friday, the day before race day, it's a "kick-back" day. 

I walked down to McDonald's for an egg McMuffin and Latte, ate the McMuffin in the restaurant, and then brought my Latte back to the motel where I sat outside on the pleasant front porch and enjoyed it and enjoyed the morning. 

When I was finished, I walked over to the park where the race will be starting on Saturday.  The Palmer House Resort where I am staying has extensive acreage that backs up to the park, with a nature trail that cuts through the woods, around a pond and over a little wooden bridge then into the park.  I wanted to see how far it was and how long it would take me to walk there the next morning. 

When I got to the park, the race organizers were setting up large awnings and tables for the next day.  I introduced myself to the first person I saw there working, and soon I was being introduced all around to the organizing staff with whom I'd been corresponding at their Facebook page.  It was very nice to meet them in person!

Late Friday afternoon about 4:30 PM I drove over to the restaurant, The Perfect Wife, to pick up my race packet and, what the heck!  While I was there, I went inside and had a bowl of turkey barley soup and some garlic bread for an early dinner.  I like to keep things light - as in low roughage - the night before a race.

Back at the room, I laid out the things I'd need for race-day morning and then climbed into bed to surf the 'net and then to read.


Race day morning!!  I wasn't excited in a nervous sort of way...just eager to get over there and for the race to start.  I knew I wouldn't have the pressure of time hanging over me since this is a walker-friendly event, so there was no angst about beating any deadline.  Just take my time.  I'd already decided that, given the very hilly nature of this course, I would mostly walk it and only run on the downhills. 

So when we were all sent off with a "Ready, set, go!" I headed out and found myself in step with two other women.  We stayed together until mile 2, when the road started a long uphill stretch.  I commented to one of the women that I was dreading these hills and she replied back that this wasn't a hill, just a slight slope in the road.  Oh, boy!  What have I gotten myself into??

She pulled away as my pace slowed a bit on this long uphill, but I quickly left the other woman behind, so I didn't feel so bad.   I just kept moving forward, turning when the road marshal pointed a turn, slowing my pace a bit on the uphills, and then running down the backsides of those hills.  I found a pace and rhythm that was working for me. 

The weather was just about perfect and the scenery was to die for!!  It was gorgeous!  We were traversing a road that skirts the base of Mount Equinox, which loomed up immediately to our left.  At one point along the way, we had a pretty stream boiling along down below the roadway on our left.  Up and down, up and down... and then I got to the really big UP that I'd heard others talking about. 

The Hill.   It's a gravel road that runs pretty much straight up.  I swear it was so steep I could have leaned forward and touched it with my nose.  While I'd been mantaining an average pace of about 13:40 according to my Garmin watch, my pace slowed to a nearly 20:00 minute mile pace working my way up this hill.  It was about a mile long.  My thighs were burning by the time I reached the top where we took an immediate right.

I just kept rocking along until we turned right again, where I knew we'd now be going down that hill on a parallel road.  Yippeee!  I broke into a run and when I got to the bottom, checked my watch to see that I'd been doing a 9:10 pace.  Awesome!! 

The route flattened out from here until the last mile and I just kept walking a steady pace.  The last approach to the finish line was a 3/4 stretch of pretty steep uphill.  I was really struggling at this point to get up that hill.  There wasn't much left in my legs.  But once into the park, the last 0.2 miles were flat so I didn't embarrass myself too much (I hope) in front of the finish line cameras.

I'm very pleased with how I did in this race, it being one week after another half marathon.  My time was excellent for a "walker!" 

A really sharp-looking, one-of-a-kind pressed glass medal is now added to my collection  I can't wait to hang this one and the Wilkes-Barre medal onto my 50 States-50 Half Marathons medal rack back home.

Some friends from the MTF joined me for lunch at Zoey's Double Hex restaurant afterward.  John from Buffalo NY and Rob from the Philly area came up on their motorcycles in the true spirit of typical Long Distance Rider Ride-To-Eats.  Pat came over from Nashua but, having checked the weather before leaving, came in his cute Mazda Miata.  Thanks to all of you for sharing my celebration!

So now I have 10 states completed in my quest for half marathons in all 50 states.  Here's what the map looks like now:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday is "Mansion Day"

It didn't seem like I was going at break-neck pace, so why am I looking for a laid-back sort of day today?

It's Thursday morning and even though I had good intentions of getting out for another run in the morning, my brain was telling me otherwise.  I thought of all sorts of excuses, and those excuses won out.

So I took my dear sweet time getting up and dressed, and then I walked down to the center of town to have breakfast at the intriguing little place called Up For Breakfast.  The name of this little cafe is a cute double-entendre, since its on the second floor over a shop, and you get there up an exterior flight of stairs.

I knew I was going to like this place the moment I walked in.  It's small and cozy, with a few tables and booths.  The interior is L-shaped as the seating area wraps around the little open kitchen.  There's a counter with stools around the corner and it's here that I sat, where I could watch the action in the kitchen and still see the dining room.  I ordered a cup of de-caf coffee while I checked out the menu, and it was only then that I saw the maple latte's and cappucinos on the menu.  Well darn!  I've gotta try one of those!

I ordered a"morning glory" muffin, which was heavy with carrots, raisins and possibly other fruit - sort of a "carrot cake on a binge" kind of muffin.  It was excellent!  Then I had some Greek yogurt with honey drizzled on top, and finished it off with a side order of maple-smoked sausage links.  Mmm-mmm!!

Back at the motel and into the car, I headed south of town a little ways to Hildene, the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln and his family.  Lincoln built this home when he was president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, and used it as his family's summer retreat. 

As I drove up the long gravel approach road, the home came into view, so I stopped and took a photo of the home from that perspective.  This is no doubt what visitors saw as they approached the home by carriage or, later, by motorcar.  

I continued on to the parking lot and then, entry fee paid, watched the short film and then walked outside and up the hill toward the home.

It's really a beautiful house, and many of the furnishings are still original.  What was interesting was how Lincoln's granddaughter gave away much of the furnishings and accessories and how many of them have been slowly making their way back to the home through donations and gifts.

Inside the home, I was greeted by a docent who gave an excellent guided tour of the home.  I always prefer being given a guided tour, since they always know so much detail and trivia about the home that I would never learn if left on my own to wander about.  Others who initially turned down his offer of the tour soon joined us anyway.

Photos were not allowed inside the home, so I have nothing but my visual memories of the interior. 
The house is situated on the land to take full advantage of the views.  I thoroughly enjoyed this leisurely tour and afterward, I stepped out back to stroll through the formal garden and take a few photos. 

This is a working farm as well, and even today their products are sold to support the foundation, products such as honey and goats milk products.  The bees were giving the flowers in the formal gardens a good working over:

Big, beautiful butterflies were everywhere.  I caught a Monarch butterfly as it landed on a cone flower:

I walked up to the top of the ridge, where an observatory sits, and took a peek inside at the telescope with attached wooden semi-reclining chair, looking a little primitive by today's standards.

After buying a couple of books at the gift shop, I dropped them off at my car and then walked across the parking lot to the path that took me to a fully restored Pullman car, named "Sunbeam."   The trustees of Hildene had long wanted to acquire a Pullman car to put on the property and in 2007 they found a car and brought it up to Manchester.  The interior is fabulously returned to its opulent richness!  I could just imagine what it must have been like to travel this way in the comfort of one's own private car. 

Very nice way to spend the morning!

I stopped at the post office to buy stamps and then at Zoey's Deli to pick up a sandwich to go.  A nice lunch sitting outside next to my room at the motel and I was pretty much done for the day, as evidenced by the fact that I apparently fell asleep reading my Kindle and woke up an hour later!

Tomorrow is Friday and I'll take it easy, stay off my feet as much as possible, and then the pre-race dinner and get-together at The Perfect Wife restaurant on Friday evening.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Up With the Sun, then a Run, then a Drive

What's with this waking up before the sun is even up??  I need to quit this!  But I might as well pull on some running clothes and take advantage of the absolutely gorgeous town of Manchester VT and these absolutely perfect morning temperatures!! 

So that's what I did on Wednesday morning.  Lots of directions I could have headed, but I chose to run north on 7A for about a mile and a half, where the sidewalk ran out, then turn around and head south and into town, through town, south of town on 7A until I reached a little rotary (or roundabout as the Brits call them) where I turned around, headed back north, turned right onto 30 amidst all of the construction and ran down the hill (nice!) to the McDonalds.  Of course! 

After breakfast I ran back to the motel and dithered and dallied until nearly 11 AM, when I thought probably I ought to get cleaned up, get in the car, do something.

I had picked up a little tourist newspaper the evening before at the pizza/pasta restaurant and read about a little cheese shop south in Arlington VT and a touristy little chocolate shop nearby in East Arlington.  That sounds like a plan.  I can get lunch somewhere on the road and then I thought I'd drive up to Mt. Bromley and check it out...see if it had changed much in the 45 or so years since I used to ski there while in college.

Going south from the motel, toward the center town, I had to take the detour to avoid the road closure in the exact center of town.  They're rebuilding a little bridge right in the center of town and beautifying that intersection, turning it into a roundabout, from what I've read.  But it sure does have traffic in a mess!  I did discover a much easier way to get to 7A south of the center, though.  It's the truck detour and is much smoother. 

Once on 7A south of town, I headed toward Arlington, keeping my eye out for the Vermont Cheese House on the right as I neared the town center.  I saw it but when I pulled in, there was a sign on the door that said, "Closed" and beneath that was a sign that said closed on Tuesdays.  It didn't make sense, since this was Wednesday.  I almost pulled back onto 7A but thought I'd just check the door.  Just in case.  Well, it was open!  So in I went, and had a delightful chat with the woman proprietress and her cute little poodle named Cookie.  They had an overwhelming selection of cheeses, mostly cheddars, for which this region is famous.  We talked about cheeses and I told her I wasn't a big cheese eater, didn't really care for sharp cheddars, so she recommended a mild cheddar and I bought a small little block and a package of crackers. 

But the real prize was some maple sugar candy.  I'd been craving it ever since I started out on this trip.  I saw some at the touristy place I stopped at yesterday for lunch, but felt the price was too high...maybe because it was so touristy.  But alas!  I'm seeing the same prices for maple syrup and candies everywhere I've been this week.  So I bought a piece of candy for $4.99 (ouch!) and a little jug of Grade A medium amber maple syrup. 

The cute Wayside Country Store in the center of East Arlington.
Note the mural on the wall, and there's a little bridge
with flower pots hanging from the rails to the left.
Now it was time to move on down the road to East Arlington to find that Chocolatorium!  I turned left onto the tiny little street named, logically, East Arlington Street.  You see, the way street names work here in New England is that the street is named for the town it heads toward.  So  this must be the right street.  It was already pretty narrow, but seemed to be petering out until I saw a "Dead End Ahead" sign.  I was about to turn around when I noticed a little sign pointing to the right that said "Chocolatorium."  Bingo!

This little street took me to a tiny little wide spot in the road where there was the really cute Wayside Country Store and the Chocolatorium/Bearatorium store.  As I parked the car I noticed a pretty little stream with some falls, so paused to take a photo before turning toward the object of my desire:  chocolate.

Lots and lots of bears for sale in the Bearatorium!  I could easily get hooked on collecting these.  Wait....I think at one time I did collect them!  But that excess cargo was shed long ago prior to a previous move.  So I turned my attention to the chocolate and bought a couple of pieces of fudge.

There was easy access to Highway 7 from here so I got on heading north to make good time and decided to stop for lunch at Zoey's Double Hex to check it out, since we'll be eating here on Saturday after the race.  It will be perfect for our little group.

Now I'm perfectly staged to head toward Mt. Bromley.  This is going to be quite the blast from the past.  It was my favorite ski destination when I was in college.  Two or three of us would pile into my VW Beetle, ski's clamped into the ski rack on the back, and get on the road early - well before daylight - to drive these narrow, twisty, hilly, steep roads in all sorts of weather to get to Bromley early, before the parking lots filled up and the lift lines got too long.

Today, I retraced the route taken over 45 years ago to get to Bromley.  I was a bit amazed, even appalled at how steep and winding the road was.  It was hard for me to believe I drove this road so many years ago.  Even harder to believe my dad would let me do such a thing.  The only explanation is that he trusted me.  Yeah, that's it.  It couldn't possibly be because my dad had no idea just how dangerous this might have been, given some of the road conditions we experienced.

The "bunny slope"
Real name:  The Lord's Prayer.
Very appropriate!

I was excited to get there, excited to see if it had changed any in all those years.  When I drove up along side it, preparing to turn left into the drive, I recognized it immediately.  It had changed very little in all those years.  The approach is the same, the parking lot in front of the ski lodge is identical.  The only difference was the hotel built in the location where the overflow parking lot used to be.  Now they have a large parking lot across the street, with a pedestrian tunnel under the road to get to the lodge.

T-bar lift
I parked my car in front of the lodge and walked up to the first thing I knew and recognized:  The "bunny slope" where I spent much of my ski time.  It always looked daunting to me back then.  Even today, when I looked up at it, it seemed steep yet wide.  The T-bar lift is still there, probably the exact same one that was there 45 years ago. 

I paused to take a photo of the diagram showing all of the trails and lifts.  No question the trails have been expanded.  And there seemed to be many more chairlifts than I remembered.

Diagram of the trails and lifts at Mt. Bromley

One of several chairlifts now at Bromley.  This was the original

the back deck of the ski lodge. 
Looks out over chair lifts and the trails
As I walked toward the back of the lodge, I conjured up a vision of how I remembered this:  inside cafeteria, outside deck with old wood tables and benches.  I recalled sitting outside, nose running like a faucet, eating a greasy hamburger and drinking hot cocoa.  The deck is still there, the old wooden tables and benches replaced with patio-style furniture.  I took photos of everything and then headed down the open stairway to the parking lot below.  This all looks exactly the way I remembered it!! 

Those old wooden tables that I remembered so well.
When I got down to the parking lot level, what did I see but a half dozen of those old wooden tables I remembered, pushed together in the center of the covered walkway!!  Oh my goodness!!  The memories were just overwhelming! 

I'm so glad I took the time to drive just the few miles up Rte 30 to see this!  Now I can dust those memories off, having a refeshed "visual" to guide the way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time to Leave North Adams MA....What's Next?

Tuesday morning I was pretty much packed, just had my running clothes laid out for a quick run in the morning, and some fresh clothes to change into afterward before checking out of the hotel.  So where should I go next?  I'm just an hour or so away from my next destination - Manchester Center, VT - so no sense rushing to get up there.  The folks at the nice motel where I had a reservation probably wouldn't let me check in that early anyway. 

A little research on the internet and I uncovered a definite possibility for some interesting sight-seeing.  Also, a definite possibility for some very photogenic landscape.  So I checked out of the hotel, stuffed my luggage into the back of the SUV, and headed in the exact opposite direction of Vermont.  I headed south toward Pittsfield and then a little southwest from there to the Hancock Shaker Village.

A long time ago, when I lived in Massachusetts, we were very close to the historical reproduction village of Sturbridge Village.   I always enjoyed going there.    Hancock Shaker Village could be just as enjoyable and, besides, the drive to get there, and then the drive from there up to Manchester VT on Rte 22 through NY would be very entertaining. 

Brick Dwelling building
contained dorm rooms, meeting room, kitchen,
dining hall, canning and food storage cellars
My timing was perfect!  I arrived at the Shaker Village just in time to pay admission and then join the 11:00 AM orientation tour of the old Brick Dwellling building.  There were maybe a dozen of us gathered in the Meeting room on the first floor, disposable booties on our feet to protect the absolutely gorgeous hardwood floors.  Men seated in the east side of the room, women in the west side of the room, just as it was 200 years ago. 

A woman in 1800's Shaker costume then joined us and proceeded to give us an excellent narrative of the history of the religion, how Mother Ann came over from England to the U.S. in the 1700's and brought a small group of followers with her and how the Shakers eventually acquired this land and settled this permanent colony. 

A female Retiring Room
The Docent then went on to tell us about the Brick Dwelling we were in, pointing out all of the architectural details, how the simple but very effective form and function of every feature of the building lent such beauty to this building.  Form follows function.

Imagine this:  the window sashes are completely removable with just the turn of two screws.  How easy to clean!  And why did we go to weights and then springs on sashes to hold windows open??  Those very same screws on those Shaker windows act as "set screws."   Back those screws out a little, raise the window, then tighten the screws.   And the wood finish on the windows, the window casements, the sills, the original furniture, was just beautiful!

Originally the men's dining hall ante-room,
furnished today to showcase period furniture
Apparently the Shakers went through a "bright colorful paint" period, when woodwork and furnishings were painted - typically a bright mustard yellow or pea green.  But they learned that the "outside world" didn't like those colors, they preferred the beauty of the natural grains of the hardwoods being used.  You see, the "outside world" was the Shakers' source of income: they made and sold food, clothing, and furniture and sold it to the outsiders.  So the Shakers got away from the bright colors and went with natural finishes.  There were abundant examples of both finishes throughout the Brick Dwelling.  The docent showed us exteriior cabinet doors with natural finishes, but the inside of the doors and some of the cabinets retained their original painted finishes, turned dark and grimy with with age. 

Originally one of the Retiring Rooms,
furnished today to show period pieces.
The Shakers perfected the art of "built-ins."  Apparently having built-ins meant no furniture to dust or sweep under.  What a concept!  I was looking at some gorgeous built-ins and wishing I had similar in my house.  Even the "dumb-waiters" (and there were two) looked like built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinets and the interior - the part that moved up and down between the kitchen below and the dining room on the 1st floor - was multi-shelved from floor to ceiling.

I went up to the second floor and poked my head into the rooms.  This floor and the third floor were at one time all 'retiring rooms' but some have been furnished today with trappings and furniture to show other activities that would have taken place in other buildings in the colony.   The east-west segregation continued within this building from the attic all the way down to the basement.  Women's retiring rooms were all lined up on the west side of the building, men's on the east side.  The sisters sat in a small ante-room on the west side of the building, next to the dining room, and the men had a waiting room on the east side.  When the bell rang to call them to meals, they gathered in their respective ante rooms until the lead sister and lead brother led them into the dining room.  They didn't talk, they simply filed in, sat on their proper side of the room, prayed, ate, then got up and left.

The official tour over, we were free to roam the grounds of the colony, poke our heads into the other buildings.  I headed over to the very unique Round Barn.   There were a few calves, pigs, goats in stalls in an adjoined barn and outside there were a couple of very serious-looking rams penned in separately from the sheep that were roaming freely in a large field.

I wanted to take this cute
little Silkie Bantam home
with me.
I've never seen such big turkeys!
When I stepped out of the barn, the animal caretaker fetched some feed and began tossing it down in the yard.  This brought chickens and turkeys running from everywhere!  I had no idea chickens could run so fast!  Their little legs were turning over like the cartoon character RoadRunner.  I laughed out loud, it was so comical to watch!  And the turkeys!  They were huge!  I totally fell in love with a little Silkie Bantam that came right up to me when I knelt down to take his photo.  He kept cockadoodle-doing at me, pausing only long enough to chase after a couple of hens who, the caretaker said, were the little Silkie's wives.

Re-enactors, dressed in costume, were working in the various buildings and telling the visitors a bit about what they were doing.  There was a blacksmith, a woodworker, a fellow making brooms, and they would answer any questions the visitors might have. 

When I'd had enough, I strolled back to the visitor center, which forces exit through the gift shop, of course, and then turned in my audio tour device and headed for the car. 

It was about 1:30 PM and I was thinking about lunch, so I let my GPS tell me how to get to Manchester VT, thinking I'd spot someplace interesting and stop there for lunch along the way.  My GPS did not let me down.  She took me west into NY and onto Rte 22 heading north.  It was an outstanding little road!  It connected with Rte 7 in Hoosick and I took it heading east/north into Vermont.  Just near the state line, I spotted the perfect spot to stop for lunch!!

 Now fed, thirst quenched, I continued on 7 all the way to Manchester VT, my home for the next few days.

Tomorrow:  a llittle run in the morning and then some local sight-seeing in the Manchester VT area.