Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness.

It's funny. As busted as my bracket is, my own version of March Madness is really just halfway through the first round.

This past weekend, Erich, Zable, and I headed to Sugar Mountain. Erich put in a training ride with the rest of the CLM on the route of the Boone-Roubaix race coming up in less than two weeks. The scenery was spectacular - truly, a gorgeous early-spring morning in the mountains. The gang seemed to have a great ride together before all of us met back up in downtown Boone for lunch. The hungry cyclists chose Black Cat Burrito for their carb-reloading, and it was tasty.

Erich and I headed back up the mountain to watch more basketball and steal a lazy nap. We watched the thriller between Northern Iowa and Kansas that ultimately laid our brackets to rest...and loved it. The games were so compelling that we decided to grab dinner to-go from Bella's in Banner Elk so we could watch the Deacs play. Needless to say, Kentucky played like the best team in the entire tournament that night, but we still had a blast! In spite of the warm sunshine the whole day, there was a chill in the air that inspired us to build a fire in the fireplace during the late games.

And sure enough, by the next morning, the weather was vastly different. It was much colder, very windy, and super foggy up at the top of Sugar. I love when the weather feels like that. Erich and I packed up our bike, books, and dog, and hit the road. We first stopped at The Lodge at Banner Elk Cafe for food and mochas. That's when it started to rain. But we still decided to take the long way around, driving up and over Grandfather Mountain. In spite of the rain and fog, the views were beautiful. And it was nice to just drive and talk and listen to music.

As we came down the mountain, we arrived in Blowing Rock. Zable (exhausted from watching people of all kinds on the ski lift from the porch all weekend!) napped in the car while Erich and I wandered between a few shops, dodging the rain from beneath an umbrella. You know you've done just the right kind of shopping when you end up with a Bon Iver CD and chocolate-covered espresso beans from Kilwin's. Perfect.

We spent most of our drive home discussing how we'd love to have a second home in the mountains someday. And that fantasy has carried us right into the work week...where the adventures just keep coming! I can hardly wait for our book club tomorrow night. I finally get to talk to my girlfriends about Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen from The Help. Perhaps over a glass of wine. Or two.

And then Friday, we leave for Amy's bachelorette weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. That whole trip will most likely be a blog entry in and of itself! And the Tour of the Battenkill is now less than 3 weeks away. Erich heads to the hills and the gravel for his big race simulation ride on Saturday. I can't wait to hear all about it. He's showing amazing form these days, even if he is my own husband. Hard to believe that we'll spend Easter in Virginia with our family, then take off for New York only 2 days later. And by that time, a trip to Athens will be waiting on the horizon.

Is there such a thing as April Madness, too?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tribe Pride.

March is here. And with it comes all the Madness.

Less than one short year ago, the Carolina Tar Heels cut down the nets and brought the trophy home to Chapel Hill. But this year's team wasn't quite able to live up to those same standards. When the brackets for the Big Dance were announced, the defending national champs were, predictably, not invited. But they did find themselves as hosts in the NIT. And so the season continues.

Now switch scenes completely to the tiny hamlet of Williamsburg, home of the second oldest school in the nation. Who knew when William & Mary was founded in 1693 that it would take 317 years for them to earn only their second invitation to the NIT...ever? For the Tribe, simply making it into the NIT is a really big deal. So when the selections were announced late Sunday night, I was thrilled to see the Green and Gold pop up onto the screen. Until I saw their matchup in the first round: Carolina. The Tar Heels. In Chapel Hill. Oh snap.

Erich really surprised me with his interest in the game. It turns out that because of renovations currently taking place at the Dean Dome, the game was to be played in Carmichael...a.k.a. Michael Jordan's former playground. A rare treat indeed to see the men's team play in Carmichael anymore. So when Monday morning rolled around, Erich and I quickly decided that ordering tickets (if we were able) was a no-brainer.

Thanks to a renewed membership in the Tribe Club, our connections in Williamsburg produced two tickets for last night's big game. So one infectious diseases clinic, four knee replacements, and one hip revision later, we hit the road for Chapel Hill.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, we love a road trip. And this one was no exception. With a little music from 'Jump, Little Children' playing in the background, the trip seemed to take hardly any time at all. When we first arrived, we decided to take a nice, spring-evening walk through campus with Erich giving me a great tour.

The famous Bell Tower tolled as we walked past. It really is beautiful. How strange to be in Chapel Hill, preparing myself to root against the Tar Heels?!

And of course, there's the Old Well. The classic symbol of the University of North Carolina. Clearly, Erich was happy to be back! We wandered around enjoying the feel of a college campus in springtime, and we eventually made our way to Pepper's Pizza on much-loved Franklin Street. Hard to beat the taste of that pizza + a cold beer just before a college basketball game.

After dinner, we made our way over to Carmichael. I have to admit - it was nice to see lots of Green and Gold everywhere. I instantly knew there couldn't be a bad seat in the house - the arena is so classic and very intimate. But I'm not sure that either of us expected to be sitting right behind William & Mary's the 8th row! It was great. Very cool to see the Tribe well-represented, and equally cool to see the beleaguered Heels and good ol' Roy get plenty of love from their hardcore fans in spite of their challenging season.

From the opening tip, the game was insane. And the roar of the crowd was absolutely deafening. The Tribe looked so scared at the start, and Carolina took advantage with a huge run. But the boys in Green fought back, and believe it or not, it was actually a great game. Truly, William & Mary was David to Carolina's Goliath. The difference in height and athleticism was amazing.

But the Tribe hung tough. They made it rain in the second half, 3-pointers shot from all around the arc - nothing but net. And for that reason, the game's outcome was really uncertain until maybe a minute remained. The boys in Green and Gold simply couldn't hang with the former national champs. But they fought the good fight. Final score: UNC 80, W&M 72.

And so the Heels fight on! Both Erich and I agreed before the game started that neither of us could really lose. We both respect each other's schools so much, and we happily cheer for the other's team...except in the incredibly rare instance when they actually play each other! At the end of the day, there was nothing but love - for both teams (and yes, also for each other). Best $40 we've spent in a long, long time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Last weekend, Erich and I traveled to River Falls, South Carolina, for his first bike race of the season. It was one of those late winter/early spring days that was perfect for our planned adventure. We hit the road early, complete with a tall white mocha (for then non-racer) and our favorite road-trip tunes. The mountains were beautiful, and it seemed like we arrived in River Falls in no time.

Erich's race went really well. I'm so proud of his dedication and training...even when I switch from Coach to Wife with little warning! He had a Top-10 finish in the race, which is especially cool because he mistook the 'bell lap' for an enthusiastic fan with a cowbell. Woo-ha!

We headed back into downtown Asheville after the race for a late lunch at Early Girl Eatery. We love that place, and we totally blame our buddies, the Hekmans, for that. A cheeseburger + an ice cold Highland Gaelic Ale totally hit the spot.

When we returned home, I decided to get back on the proverbial horse and choose more freelance articles to write. I took a little hiatus after my rejection a couple of weeks ago. But the new articles I chose have gone smoothly so far, and I submitted them both to my editor by yesterday morning. Fingers crossed! And the best part? Last night, I got an e-mail from Demand Studios informing me that, after careful review, my rejection has actually been overturned! What a nice feeling.

As we're approaching the end of this past week, we've had nothing too crazy going on. And we have a fun weekend planned with my family. Lots of relaxation together is on the agenda. Which is really nice because these next several weeks promise to be insane. And adventurous. And fun. But insane.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bond. Gold Bond.

I've got an itch.

And I know...that sounds like a really personal problem - but it's not what you think. It's more like an itch for some sort of...I don't project or adventure. I get this feeling that I'll soon realize something I should be doing, something I want to be doing. I don't know what it is exactly. It could be the books I've read lately or maybe the planning for our upcoming spring trips. Who knows? I can't say what started it or just when I'll realize the answer. But I'm going to figure it out. And when I do, you'll be the first to know. know what I mean...