Thursday, December 27, 2012

Delayed Gratification!

It took nearly a month, but it did arrive...the December 2, 2012 Scottsdale Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon Finisher's medal! 

With 60 runners still to cross the finish line, they ran out of medals.  The organizer was standing there to apologize to each of us as we arrived at the finish line.  After doing this race for 25 years, they never imagined that this year's race would have so many participants.  Good news for them and the means that it's growing.  Bad news for those of us who really like getting the bling.  I know from organizing events that it's a tough process, forecasting for an event, planning for no-shows, last minute registrations and still not get stuck with a surplus of useless medals at the end of it all. 

But they came through, and quickly too.

So now the state of Arizona hangs on my 50 States-50 Half Marathon medal rack.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Up and Down Holiday

That emotional rollercoaster, the one triggered by the highs and lows of life, always exists on the fringes of being for all of us.  It has appeared a number of times over the years in my life, as it no doubt has for everyone else.   It's a fact of life.  When they hit around a major family-oriented holiday, the ride can be a little rougher than usual. 

For me, the coaster is always tamed by remembering all of the times - good and bad - which helps put things in their proper perspective.

This season, a trip to Scottsdale AZ to run a half-marathon and to then stay a few days at a resort kept me from participating in the annual weekend get-together at Cedar Key FL.  It's always held the first weekend in December...a nice relaxing couple of days just hanging with friends in a quaint little town, one that's on the National Historic Register.  The event is organized every year by a delightful couple from West Palm Beach FL, Kevin and Deb Healey and I knew I'd be missing a great weekend with great friends.   

While I was in Scottsdale, I learned that Kevin and Deb were involved in a horrific accident while on their way to Cedar Key.  Both were severely injured.  This news was disturbing and it weighed heavily on my mind.  I had a dream a few nights later that Kevin, an avid marathon runner, had finally convinced me to join him in running a race that's held every March in Jacksonville.  In real life he'd tried but I'd always turned him down.  Now this dream.  What did it mean?  You see, Kevin lost his left leg below the knee in this accident. 

A couple of days later, while getting a run in, the dream suddenly made sense!  The idea came to me out of nowhere, the idea to raise money for them by taking donations for each mile I would be running in five of my upcoming half-marathons.  The runs would be made in Kevin's name, since he was also a runner.  Each of these are in the Southeast - MS, LA, AL, GA, SC - states from which Kevin's Cedar Key weekend usually drew attendees.  Then I logged in to a motorcycling website forum that I visit regularly, and saw that a fellow rider and mutual friend had put the word out asking for help organizing a fund-raiser for the Healeys.  So I responded to this friend's request, sharing the idea that I'd come up with while running.

With web page and donation page up and running, I achieved some bit of solace, knowing that I was doing something to help. 

This month is both a build-up month and a taper-down month for running mileage.  It falls between the Scottsdale race on the 2nd of the month and the Jackson MS Mississippi Blues Half Marathon on the 5th of January.  After a week of easy low-mileage runs, I ran 8 miles the second weekend of December, taking my favorite route to McDonalds, getting a small latte, then running back home, latte in hand.   This past weekend I ran 10 miles, and I debated whether to repeat my route to McDonald's, but decided to stay closer to home, cobbling a 10 mile route together using the streets nearer to my house. 

A pleasant evening caroling our neighborhood with fellow residents of our community helped me to temporarily forget the periodic grim news that was coming from the Healeys' daughter - set-backs in both her mom and dad's recoveries.  A cold front came through on caroling day, so we were all bundled up.  A low-bed trailer decorated with Christmas lights, bales of hay lined up along the rails, transported the carolers through the neighborhood.   This was just what I needed to get into the holiday spirit.

Fund-raiser mug for the Healeys

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ode to Getting Wet

It was spitting rain on me this morning when I got out the door and on the road for a long run.  It was overcast and warm, 71 degrees, the air heavy with moisture.

An eight-mile run today.  Two weeks past my last half marathon, three weeks in front of my next one.  It will be the Mississippi Blues Marathon/Half Marathon in Jackson MS.  The weather is going to be a big question mark as we move through December and on into January.

With the first two miles in my neighborhood completed, I ran out the gate and onto the sidewalk along a main boulevard.  I will be at the mercy of the weather, the further I get down this road. 

My destination and turnaround point?  The McDonald's at Cullen Road and FM 518.  Wide open spaces between my start point and my turnaround point would offer little by way of shelter should the sprinkles start to get serious.  But actually, a full-on rain would feel good on this warm and muggy morning.

Five miles later, I was dripping and shoe-squeaking my way toward the counter at McD's.  I handed the soggy dollar bills over and stepped aside to wait for my drink.  Then, with latte in hand, it was time to head back the way I came, back toward home.  With practice I've learned how to run while holding a full coffee in hand, slowing to a walk pace periodically to take a few sips.  The skies to the west and north were as black as I've ever seen them, portending the forecasted weather front.  When it moves through - when it reaches me - it will turn pleasant rain sprinkles into a deluge. 

And then I saw it coming.  Straight down Cullen, straight toward me, a pecularity of rain storms in the South, well-remembered from my school days when I'd run home from school, staying just ahead of that wall of rain. 

With a sudden gust of wind, the temperature dropped 5 degrees instantly.  Within seconds of this gust came the heavy rain.  No longer could I see the intersection with McHard Rd, which was no more than a mile ahead of me.  But ohhh, did it feel good! The mugginess was instantly gone, replaced by cool, sometimes stinging rain.

Within seconds I was thoroughly soaked!  What is it about running in the rain that makes me feel like a little girl again?  Imaginings of playing in rain puddles, getting little-girl shoes and little-girl dress wet...and getting away with it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Maybe I Should Have Bought a Lottery Ticket

 So, will my luck hold?  Let's see.  My lunch was "comp'd" at the White Chocolate Grill in Scottsdale because the manager felt I had to wait too long for my meal (not really, but who am I to turn down a free lunch?).  That was just a lucky break, and now it's time to go about my business of winding down my stay at Villa Mirage and getting packed for my trip home. 

Call me obsessive, but I really hate getting out on the road without a planned destination for the night, no matter whether I'm on the motorcycle or in the SUV.  To me, it's just really nice to be able to pull into the hotel, go ahead and park the vehicle and bring my luggage in to the reception area to check in, knowing I have a room waiting for me.   Not only that, but by booking a room ahead, I always have the opportunity to compare rates with neighboring hotels and to use Loyalty Member points wherever possible.   So there...I've said it.  I am a plan-aheader.

HamptonI drove to Van Horn on Friday and checked into the Hampton Inn on the outskirts of town.  Over the years I've watched the town grow and add a couple of newer hotels on the west side.    I didn't quite have enough points to get the room for free.  That would require 25,000 points, a bit steep for an average Hampton Inn in a non-tourist town.  But I suppose they can command a premium because there's not much else for a hundred miles.

The room was nice, if a little small by Hampton Inn standards, but it was comfortable.  I dropped my bags in the room and got back in the SUV to drive to the other end of town where there is a Subway at the Love's truck stop.  I brought the sandwich back to my room and settled in for the evening.

About 2:30 AM I woke up, freezing cold. Brrrr! I put the light on, put my glasses on and went in search of the thermostat. It was on the wall, these instructions spelled out to me when I lifted the little lid on the standard-issue hotel wall unit that was under the window. When I peered at the digital display on the wall unit, I saw that it was 61 degrees! No wonder I was cold! Now some guys who are reading this are probably saying, "Perfect sleeping temperature!" but those guys probably carry a bit more body insulation than I do.

Well, no matter what I did, I could not get that thermostat to trigger the wall unit to start blowing warm air.  I bumped the little up arrow button to read 70 degrees, waited, and nothing happened.  Then I bumped it up to 75 degrees and, again, nothing happened.  I turned it off and then back on.  The display always reverted back to the room temperature reading.  I pulled on my half-zip fleece top and dug through my carryon bag and found a pair of socks.  I even contemplated putting my long pants on, too, but I planned to wear these again the next day and didn't want that slept-in look.

If I was at home, I'd have my down comforter to snuggle back under.  That down comforter works better than any electric blanket!  It takes only a few moments and I'll be in a nice warm cocoon.  But I wasn't at home and I didn't have my nice down comforter.  All I had was the lumpy synthetic fiber-fill comforter that is standard in all Hampton Inn hotels.  These definitely do not trap and hold body heat.  Every time I moved I had to warm up the bed again.  So it was a long rest of the night for me. 

When I went to the front desk to check out in the morning, the clerk asked me if everything was okay.  I told her it wasn't, that the heater in my room did not work, and that it was 61 degrees in my room this morning when I woke up.  She didn't hesitate, but immediately told me that there would be no charge for my room.   Oh, my!  I certainly didn't expect that.  I mentioned it only so that they'd fix it before the next guest used that room.

There's a McDonald's right near the hotel so I took a few minutes to go through the drive-through and get a large Latte.  I thought that would help me warm up on this cold, 37-degree morning on the long desolate drive across west Texas.  That, and those lovely heated seats in my SUV. 

McDonald's coffees are always scalding hot.  Even the Lattes, which have steamed milk added.  So I got down the road a bit to let the coffee cool off a little, before peeling back the little cover over the drink hole and taking my first sip.  Yack!!  It was cloyingly sweet!   Damn it!  No matter that I distinctly told the McD's drivethrough speaker that I wanted a "large hot latte, no flavor, no sweetener."  I've learned to be very specific when I order one of these because every once in a while they screw it up.  I've stood there at the counter sometimes, watching them make my Latte, and watch them pump a healthy shot of flavoring into the cup before realizing, Oh wait!  You wanted that plain.  And then having to start over.

I was soooo looking forward to sipping on that nice hot latte while driving across the hundred miles or so to Ft. Stockton.  But it was totally undrinkable.  I knew I would be stopping for gas in Ft. Stockton and I also knew there was a McDonald's there, as well.  So if I could just hang in there until then. 

Once I got to Ft. Stockton, I got the gas tank filled then drove the short ways to the McDonalds and parked and went inside.  I lucked out here, because there was a woman buzzing around behind the counter, no doubt the manager judging by her age and demeanor.  A young girl was working the cash register, but there was a bit of a backup so this manager-type woman stepped up to the adjacent register, made eye contact with me, and said she could help me.  I told her I wanted a large hot latte, no flavoring, no sweetener, and mentioned that I had just bought one in Van Horn and had to throw it away.  She said, "Let me guess...they put flavoring in it." 

She wouldn't take my money.  She zipped over to the Latte machine, made my large drink, and then handed it to me, saying, "No charge.  The owner of this store also owns the one in Van Horn.  We've got their back."  Once again I'd lucked out.  I thanked her profusely, took my latte out to the car, and took a few scalding sips, letting a sigh of satisfaction escape my lips.

All is now right with the world.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Time To Say Adios to Scottsdale

It's been a good and relaxing visit, but tomorrow it's time to get on the road back to Texas.

After Tuesday's drive up to Page Springs and the wineries, a nice lunch at Harry's Hideaway, and the stop at the outlet mall (even if I didn't buy anything), I spent Wednesday doing not much of anything.

First thing Wednesday morning I got a nice little post-race recovery run in, staying in the immediate neighborhood of the resort which sits in among a couple other resorts and some very nice gated communities. 

Then, late morning, I attended a Diamond Resorts International "owners meeting," which is really their way of getting us owners in a room and trying to sell us more.  I usually avoid these like the plague and thankfully my other timeshare, the one on Captiva, is a mature resort and doesn't do this.  But occasionally, when I've traded for a timeshare in a newly developed resort, I've had to fend off attempts to get me into a sales room and give me the pitch. 

However, I did have some questions and this would be my opportunity to get the info I needed, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.  And by playing a little bit hard to get when they were trying to set up a day and time for me to attend, I negotiated them up to a $100 Visa gift card and a 2-night/3-day getaway package at one of the Diamond Resort.  So I put up with this for 60 minutes and walked away, my questions answered, bank account balances safe and untouched, and $100 richer, with a getaway certificate that I will make every effort to use.

This morning I contemplated getting another little run in, but nixed that idea, thinking it would be more fun to sleep in and be lazy this morning.  I'm really good at being lazy. 

But I did have a restaurant in mind for lunch, which just happens to be in the same shopping complex as a Sports Authority superstore, so late morning I was in my SUV and heading the few short miles to shop and eat. 

I have a skirt that I love and wear all the time.  I bought it at Sports Authority in Delafield WI last summer when I was up there to run the Rock n' Sole Half Marathon in Milwaukee.  When I returned from that trip I looked at Sports Authority on-line and they don't carry this skirt in their web store.  So knowing this would be a long shot, I wanted to try finding the skirt in this store here in Scottsdale. 

The store was having a really tempting sale!  Some very nice running tops were marked WAY down!  A couple of long sleeve tops and a short sleeve top caught my eye and my fancy.  And there, on a mark down rack, was the skirt!  Only a couple of them left, one in my size.  And in black, too!  So now I have one in khaki and one in black! 

The White Chocolate Grill...intriguing name and I just had to check it out for lunch.  I found it when I was looking at Sports Authority on Google Maps.  Checking it on, I saw that it had many excellent reviews.  So that was my lunch destination. 

It's an upscale restaurant, filled with chic business people and the occasional touristy looking person like me.  I ordered a combination rotisseried half chicken and half rack of ribs, thinking I could bring the leftovers back with me and have them for dinner tonight.  I then settled in with a Kindle book on my Smartphone while I waited for my food.  I didn't think much time had elapsed, but a manager-type employee approached me to see if I needed anything and to thank me for choosing their restaurant.  Then he went on to apologize for the delay, citing an "issue" in the kitchen, and that my food would be coming in just a few minutes.  I honestly didn't think much time had elapsed, but I guess I'd lost track, since a check of my watch showed maybe 20 minutes since I'd placed my order.

Soon enough the food arrived and it was a huge quantity, definitely enough to bring back with me for dinner tonight.  When I was done eating, the waiter approached my table to ask if I needed anything else.  Then he told me that I would not be charged for my meal, their way of apologizing for the delay.  I was speechless!  But....I'll accept that generous gift from the restaurant!  I thanked him, left a tip, and gathered my things and headed for the car. 

Just one more stop before heading back to the resort.  Whole Foods store was right across the street and I was feeling the need for some ice cream...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wine, Anyone??

It was a dream of mine to get back to Page Springs, AZ and today was the day.

Two and a half years ago I spent a week in Sedona AZ and dropped down to Page Springs AZ to visit the wineries and do some tastings.  The result of that was a few bottles of wine in my trunk to bring back home with me.  But I was too conservative.  Those few bottles of wine were excellent and didn't last long.  And these wines are from small batch wineries, their products not sold outside of AZ. 

With this trip to Scottsdale for the Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon, I had another chance. 

But before I put too many more miles on my Mazda, I needed to get it in for a service, so before I left home for this trip I got on the internet and found a Mazda dealer not too far from where I'd be staying at the Villa Mirage Resort.  I called and made an appointment and this morning I got up early and drove over there, stopping at McDonald's to pick up a Sausage Egg McMuffin and large Latte to take with me. 

The folks here were friendly and efficient.  They had me done within an hour and I even got a Holiday goody bag from them.  A nice Mazda tote bag, a drink cup with lid and straw, a large notepad, couple of sticky notes pads and some logo pens. 

This Mazda dealership was convenient to I-17, exactly where I needed to be, since I planned to drive up to Page Springs after getting my car serviced. 

I-17 between Scottsdale and the exit for Cornville is about as entertaining a drive as an interstate can get.  Within 70 miles, it gains 3,000 feet elevation through some very rugged and pretty terrain. 

I had two wineries in my crosshairs:  Oak Creek Winery and Page Springs Winery. These are two of several wineries in this area, but are the two that I was the most impressed with.  They are boutique-sized, their tasting rooms surrounded by vineyards and creating unique and clever blends using grapes that do well in this area.

Page Springs Winery
My first stop was Page Springs.  I brought home a couple of bottles of wine called Mule's Mistake after a tasting on my last visit and was very impressed.  So this was tops on my list for this visit.  They have a very good pricing structure if a full case is purchased, so I selected several different wines to make up a mixed case.

Case of wine safely stowed in the back of my SUV, I continued up the road about 1/2 mile to Oak Creek Winery. 

Labeling a batch of Oak Creek.
Oak Creek Winery
Last time I was here I brought back a couple of bottles of a very excellent white blend, labeled Viognier and I was eager to bring more of this back home this visit.  As I walked into the tasting room a young woman was sitting at a table labeling the bottles.  This is truly a small, family-run business for sure!  They had a special going 4 bottles, get one bottle free.  So I purchased a couple of bottles of Viognier and chose some wines that were new to me, a red blend and a couple of white Rhone blends, their specialty.  I had a nice visit with the young lady, talking about this part of Arizona. She packed my wines in a very nice four-bottle carrier tote and tucked a brochure for their winery in among the bottles.

It was a little after noontime so I headed back to my car, stowed my new purchases in the back of the SUV alongside the other wines. 

A little bit of internet research resulted in a potential good "find" for lunch.  I often rely on the website TripAdvisor when I'm planning a trip.  It has helped me find places to stay and to eat and the reviews are reliable. 

My "find" was a place called Harry's Hideaway, located at the junction of Cornville Rd and Page Springs Road near Cornville.  The restaurant has received numerous glowing reviews and the website showed a menu that seemed too good to be true for such an out-of-the way restaurant.  But it is within striking distance of Sedona and Prescott, so it could be true.

I stepped inside and immediately felt comfortable.  It's a small little place and the ambience is that of a small country restaurant somewhere in Europe. 

The owners and the waiter were a delight to talk to.  I learned that they are from Chicago and had a place down in this area but decided to move down to this area permanently.  They had a 220-seat restaurant in Chicago so are obviously experienced restauranteurs.  The menu at Harry's Hideaway is exquisite!  I wish it wasn't so far away from where I'm staying.  I'd eat here everyday if it were closer, just to have the opportunity to work my way through this menu.  They make everything themselves.  The pizza dough is cooked over a wood fire.  They smoke their own duck for the one of the pizzas.  Everything is made fresh right there.  Oh, and the aromas were heavenly! 

I had one of their specials of the day - Cape Capensis, a South African white fish, lightly floured and fried and served over a lightly flavored rice - and followed it up with what appears to be their signature dessert, a chocolate mousse cup.  Delicious!!

On my way back to the Scottsdale area, about 15 miles north of the city, I spied a very large outlet mall and made the spur-of-the-moment decision to get off at the exit and see what they had to offer.  I had a pleasant hour or so poking into some of the stores that interested me:  Nike, The Gap, Pearl Izumi, Columbia Sportswear.  But nothing caught my fancy so it was back on the road toward "home:" My Villa Mirage Resort condo and to enjoy a glass of wine on the balcony and enjoy the very pleasant late afternoon light and breeze.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running the Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon

I'm lovin' this!  I'm lovin' these "destination races," races that lure me into scenic or historic or quaint cities and towns that offer more than just a starting gun and a finish line.

I have seen the "insides" of cities I've only just traveled through to get somewhere else.  Cities like Milwaukee,  Little Rock, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Wichita,Wilkes-Barre.  Now I'm seeing the treasure that is Scottsdale.  A couple of days spent in Old Town Scottsdale prior to the Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon were delightful, as was the post-race lunch at Frank & Lupe's shared with some motorcycle-riding friends.

Tom, Tony, Lowell (not pictured:  Dorsey, Debbie)

Chicken mole enchiladas and a mango margarita

The race - Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon - was small and compact, organized by a group with strong ties to the local running store, Runners Den.  It had a low-key start at a starting line just two blocks from the hotel where I was staying.  There were no corrals, just a common-sense honor system, where runners seeded themselves using the pacers' signs held high, to put themselves into the generally appropriate area behind the start line. 

When the gun went off, we inched our way toward the starting line mat, hands poised over the start buttons on our watches.  Once out of the chute, I found myself running next to an older man, a speed walker.  We stayed together for much of the first 3 or 4 miles.  The field was small enough that I came to recognize the runners who seemed to be moving at about the same pace and stayed in my immediate vicinity. 

I could tell that there was a slight but unrelenting uphill grade as we ran up Scottsdale Rd.  I could feel it.   Scottsdale is about 1500 ft elevation - not so high - but it becomes noticeable to us older sea-level flatlanders, whenever there's added exertion required like walking up stairs or running up an incline.  Add to this the fact that these first five miles were a mindnumbingly straight line of code-restricted architecture, where everything looks the same.   There was no relief until the race route turned right onto Doubletree Ranch Road five miles later. 

That seemed to be the turning point for me, as I was then able to find my comfortable pace and get into a groove.  Even though that speed-walking man had gotten ahead of me, I hadn't lost sight of him.  This leg of the course was much more scenic, with high-end subdivisions tucked in behind thick plantings and was nicely shaded and curving.

Then at mile seven we turned right again onto Hayden Road, more mindnumbing scenery and no shade.  At mile eight I was stopped at a major intersection by the police officers who were controlling the traffic.  It was late enough in the race and I was far back in the pack to the point where the police were letting the traffic light control the traffic rather than hold it up for runners.  I arrived just as the cross street light turned green so I had to stand there and wait for it to cycle back to red.  This created a noticeable blip in the Garmin Connect track uploaded from my Garmin Forerunner watch.  It may have also been the difference in my finish time.  The delay was at least a minute, as it was a major intersection.

Still smiling at mile 12
At mile 9.5 we were routed off of the street and onto a very nice paved trail through a greenbelt area that included a golf course and small lakes.  It took us through tunnels under the cross streets which created some brief opportunities to let out the reins on the downhill stretches and provided some brief shade. 

the last 4 miles along this section were just the mental "shot in the arm" I needed.  It was scenic, I was starting to "reel in" the runners ahead of me, was looking like I had a good chance of finishing in under three hours, my self-imposed rule of a good finish time.

A cool 55 degrees at the start had warmed quickly to the low 70's and it had gotten into the mid 70's by the time I neared the finish line.  I pushed myself, eye on my Garmin watch, eye on the remaining distance, eye on the elapsed time.  Can I get to that finish line before 3 hours elapse?   It was going to be close.  Very close.  Close by mere seconds.

Chip time:  3:00:15.  Almost two minutes
to get across the start line.
In the end, I missed the "under three hours finish" by only 15 seconds.  Perhaps those 15 seconds were spent standing at that intersection waiting for the light to change.  Probably so.

Unfortunately for me, there was no instant gratification of a finisher's medal around my neck. The race organizers underestimated the size of the field and ran out of medals with 50 runners yet to cross the finish line.  The downside of being old and slow, I guess.  I was assured that more medals would be ordered and that mine would be mailed to me.  I hope so.  I have spot reserved for it on my cool "50 States-50 Half Marathons" medal rack.


That was the first half of this trip to Scottsdale.  Now the second half of the trip unfolds. 
Next:  A visit to the Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance on my SUV and then a trip up to Page Springs for lunch and to visit some wineries.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Stepping Back in Time in Scottsdale

It's like stepping back in time.  The original settlement area, now called Old Town Scottsdale, was settled by an Army Chaplain named Winfield Scott. He bought the land and he and his brother settled there as farmers, growing figs, citrus fruit, almonds, potatoes, peanuts.  They encouraged other farmers to join the community and in 1894, the community once known as Orangedale was renamed to Scottsdale.

A statue stands  across the square from the Little Red School House.  It depicts Scott and his wife, and Scott's old Army mule Maud. 

In the Old Town section, a number of original buildings still stand.  The Little Red Schoolhouse is, today, the Scottsdale Historical Museum.

I stepped inside and spent a long while chatting with the elderly but quite sharp couple who volunteer as docents.  It didn't matter what I looked at or commented on, the elderly gentleman knew a huge depth of detail about it.  I could easily have spent all day with him, soaking in all of the minutae of each and every photo and artifact.  And he would have gladly obliged.

But I needed to move on.  I saw that the blacksmith shop still stands and is still in business so I started in that direction but was totally sidetracked by a farmers market the likes of which I'd never seen before.  As the reader may recall, I enjoyed browsing a farmers' market in Wilkes-Barre while I was there this past Labor Day weekend.  It was a farmers' market in the classic sense.  These were locals who loaded up their trunks and pickup trucks with the bounty from their own fields and gardens and brought them to market. 

But today's farmers' market in Old Town was to the Wilkes Barre market what Belgian truffles are to a Whitman Sampler.  While there was a token small amount of fresh produce here, what really dominated the market were "designer" foodstuffs:  Fancy infused oils and made-to-order fritatas.  Organic honeys and mint extract oils.  Organic oat grains and home-canned olives.   It just went on and on, aisle after canopy-covered aisle.  If there was at least one organic ingredient in the product, it was eligible to be displayed and sold at this market.

I did not get away unscathed.  I had to buy a jar of amazing olives.  Then I had to buy some peppermint oil-infused body balm.  And a bar of handmade vanilla-lime cocoa butter soap made its way into my bag, as did a small packet of dark chocolate almond toffee.  There was plenty enough food for sale, ready to eat, that I was beginning to regret having had breakfast at the hotel. 

And speaking of hotels, I'm at the Hilton Garden Inn, which has proved to be an excellent choice.  Breakfast this morning was a full sit-down affair, food prepared fresh to order.  It was more than I usually eat for breakfast, but hard to turn it down.  So now that I think about, I don't regret having breakfast at the hotel.

I finally tore myself away from the farmers' market and went in search of the blacksmith shop, still in its original location and still in business.  On the way, I stopped to chat to this horse and it's driver.  Back in the early days, this blacksmith shop, located at the corner of 2nd Street and Brown Avenue was considered to be on the outskirts of town. 

So, when I finished taking photos, I wandered back into "town" and found an interesting person selling books outside a Texas bootery on the corner of Brown and Main Street.  It was Ermal Walden Williamson, author, actor and professional John Wayne impersonator, holding a book-signing on the sidewalk.  I walked up and started to chat with him.  He was selling his Brazos River series of books and since that river passes through not too far from where I live, I couldn't just walk away without buying a book.

Now my hands were really laden with purchases, so it was time to walk back to the hotel, detouring to the hotel's underground parking garage to stow the bags in the car.  I spotted a Schlotzsky's on my way and made a note to return there later to pick up a sandwich for an early dinner.

I went up to my room, to lay out the things I'll need for tomorrow's race, put my feet up, and watch the Alabama-UGA football game.

Tomorrow:  Fiesta Bowl Half marathon and lunch with some MTF friends.