Thursday, April 15, 2010

...And Back South.

So the second half of our Empire State adventure was easily as exciting as the first.

Erich and I road-tripped up to Cambridge, New York, on Friday morning. The drive itself was beautiful - the company, even better. We could tell the temperature was dropping as we headed further north. Arriving into the small village of Cambridge, Erich decided to pre-ride a bit of the course before we headed to the Cambridge Hotel sign him in. I drove around to follow, and the scenery was like stepping right into a painting - unreal. The covered bridge over the Battenkill River is the primary symbol of the race, so it was really cool to see it in person!

Once the course had been previewed and registration was complete, we checked out a bike shop in Saratoga Springs (to replace the bike pump still sitting on the 19th floor of Sarah's apartment!), then checked in to our hotel. We had fantastic hotels on this trip (not to mention our best accommodations in NYC!)...if you're ever, ever in the Saratoga Springs area, you should stay at the Hyatt Place. Clean, beautiful, huge rooms, endlessly-kind staff, delicious food...just go stay there already!

Erich and I asked the hotel staff for a recommendation for Friday night's dinner, and they pointed us in the direction of the Jonesville Store. We had the most unbelievable appetizer before devouring our dinner...with a glass of wine for me, the non-racer (sweet revenge for Erich's beverages during my Disney half-marathon!). There was also this cool old guy playing acoustic guitar for nice background music - truly, a lovely setting. It's really cool to take a chance and discover something new and wonderful!

When we returned to our hotel, Erich worked on bike maintenance, putting on his brand new tires. I went to the train station to pick up Sarah, who had taken the beautiful train ride out of the city after work. Believe it or not, it actually snowed on our way back from the station! The three of us were surprisingly relaxed that night, thanks to Shrek, Donkey, and a few chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies.

The relaxed mentality continued through our brunch the next morning, as well as all throughout our road trip from Saratoga Springs to Cambridge. Once Erich was pinned and sent off to the Start Line with his newfound buddy Frank, Sarah and I drove through the beautiful countryside in search of the Feed Zone at Mile 41 (where we would reload Erich's drink supply). The scenery continued to amaze us, and we had some great sister time. Once the Feed Zone was located, we elected to head to Juniper Swamp Road for a little racing action. We were really pumped to see Erich in a great position heading into the climb, roughly in the middle of the pack. He would go on to move into the lead group after that point.

Time seemed to pass really quickly from that point on. Before we knew it, the pace car was approaching the Feed Zone. I was a little nervous about my bottle hand-off, but I was excited to see the race shaping up so nicely. There were two guys down the road with the main peloton chasing, and Erich was right in the middle of that lead group! The rest of the race had been dropped, so he was well on his way to a Top 25 worst. I was really pumped for him! So you can imagine my surprise when he gave me a thumbs-down and pulled his bike over to the side of the road. Almost immediately, there was a big crash just behind us. Total sensory overload. As it turns out, Erich's shifter cable had completely snapped 5 miles before the Feed Zone, leaving him in his hardest gear. The fact that he had made it even that far was pretty miraculous in itself! So after months and months of training and anticipation, his race was over. Just like that.

I can't deny I was disappointed. He has worked really, really hard! And I felt invested in this whole process, too. But Erich was so positive about the entire experience, it was hard to stay down for long. And indeed, as she had all week, my sister played the role of hero, having planned an awesome dinner for us in downtown Woodstock! It's pretty hard to beat cold beer and gourmet pizza in a funky/cool the raddest cycling hat out there.

Our road trip back into NYC was a whirlwind, as usual. The feeling of chilling out in Sarah's apartment, overlooking the city with a (now very cool) breeze blowing, with Tina Fey on SNL in the background...well, that was pretty awesome. We slept in the next morning before grabbing brunch at the hip, delicious Community Restaurant with Erich's cousin, Lisa. It was great to catch up with her! Then Erich, Sarah, and I decided to spend the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. Needless to say, that was time well-spent. We even got to meet up with Sarah's best buddy in the city, Ally. Pretty much a perfect spring afternoon in Manhattan.

It would seem that no trip to the Big Apple is complete without at least one meal at Rosa Mexicano. Their food and drinks (especially their pomegranate margaritas!) are hard to beat. The three of us decided to relax on Sarah's 'back porch' for the rest of the evening with the sounds of the city (and Erich's travel guitar) all around us. Nearly impossible to beat the views from Sarah's place. Simply gorgeous. I love New York!

What a perfect trip. All too soon, our time in the city was over. Hugs, kisses, and Starbucks all around on Monday morning, then Erich and I hit the Lincoln tunnel and headed south. We had a long, but very enjoyable road trip back to The Dash. Nothing quite like coming home to a slobbery chocolate lab who is nothing short of elated that you're back!

Having a chance to take a deep breath before heading back to work was essential to the planning of this trip. I've spent the past two days making sure our house was in reasonable order, ensuring our laundry is caught up, doing a little yard work, cheering on some buddies at a local bike race, and being straight-up lazy. It's been awesome! We have what appears to be a really relaxing weekend in front of us, and I can hardly wait.

And then, if you can believe it, we hit the road again! Destination: Athens, Georgia. Mission: Cheer for the long-overdue Argus reunion show, then head out to the Athens Twilight Pro Race in search of flying pigs. Stay tuned.

It's gonna be epic.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Heading North...

So Erich and I hit the road on Tuesday afternoon to start our New York adventure. We decided to take the scenic route through the mountains via Interstate 81. The very best part of that decision is the detour through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Before I went to PA School, I was fortunate enough to earn my Master's Degree in Exercise Science at James Madison University, so I feel I can claim a little ownership of that part of the world. Erich had never spent much time in the Shenandoah Valley, so we decided to make our first stopover in Bridgewater, Virginia - significant, too, because my dad went to college at Bridgewater. It was awesome to walk through campus and take in the springtime sights, not the least of which was the football field where my dad made a few tackles back in the day. And the Crimson Inn is a must if you're ever in need of a place to stay in that area.

After a quick breakfast at the aptly named Jess' Quick Lunch on Wednesday morning, we were back on the road. From Bridgewater, our road trip was just over six hours to the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Looking at the map ahead of time, I noticed that the Gettysburg National Military Park was not too far off the highway. This stop proved to be not only well-timed for stretching our legs, but unbelievably beautiful (and moving) as well. We decided to take the auto tour through the battlefield, which allows you to drive your car along paved paths snaking through the 24-mile route. We took several stops along the way to walk along the same grounds those thousands of soldiers covered during those three fateful days. And of course, our tour concluded at the cemetery where good old Abe Lincoln gave a certain address a few years back. Truly, Gettysburg was an amazing place to visit. Our only regret was that we didn't have more time to spend there.

But we could hardly wait to get to the Big Apple! Our trip through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Midtown Manhattan was a little adventurous, to say the least, but it's always a ton of fun. We were so happy to see my sis, Sarah, our fantastic hostess for the week. Once we got settled, she took us for a great dinner at Penelope. And of course, because it was Erich's birthday, the night called for a little celebration. For us, celebrating included Sarah introducing us to the most amazing cupcakes ever, courtesy of Crumbs. Unreal! She and I were able to tear ourselves away from our respective Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cup treats long enough to snap a picture of E's Devil's Food cupcake, complete with a musical birthday candle! Hard to beat indulging like this while sitting on Sarah's balcony overlooking the Empire State Building on a spring evening...

Erich and I started our day today at Starbuck's (naturally) before heading over to Sid's Bikes NYC. This bike shop is super cool - and it probably doesn't hurt that they sport the orange and black colors, just like all CLM-wannabes. From Sid's, we walked over to Herald Square, down to Times Square, and then to Central Park for a rest. We grabbed lunch at a delicious Asian fusion restaurant before swinging by Niketown and the Apple Store. Our ultimate destination for the afternoon was 30 Rock, as in Rockefeller Plaza. My wicked-fun sister hooked us up with tickets to a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And it just so happened that his guest for the night was Tina Fey - love her. Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, Mario Batali, and Justin Bieber rounded out the lineup. Very, very cool way to spend the afternoon!

We had a great dinner tonight at The City Grill, then grabbed our dessert nightcaps at Magnolia Bakery. You just can't beat having a live-in guide to NYC! In the morning, Erich and I will drive up to Cambridge for race registration, then he and the Cervelo will preview certain parts of the course. When she's finished with her work week, Sarah's taking a train out of Penn Station to meet up with us in Saratoga Springs tomorrow night. And then, as hard as it is to believe, Race Day will finally be here!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It's crazy to reference a whirlwind, especially with it being 'Tornado Week' on The Weather Channel and all. But much like the EF3 twister that rocked our good buddies in High Point last week, things keep right on spinnin'.

Our girls' weekend in Charleston was so much fun. Sarah, Aliza, and I had a great road trip down together, and it was really, really nice to catch up with everybody once we arrived. There were 10 girls in all who made the trip down to celebrate with Starnes for the weekend. And you know how it goes - these adventures are always short on sleep but long on fun!

I'm pretty sure I'd barely blinked when our alarm clocks went off the next morning, but with more than 40,000 people signed up for the Cooper River Bridge Run, we couldn't chance our arrival to the Start Line before the bridge closed. Two things to note about our morning together before the race started: #1 - Try as you may, you simply can't beat our Starnes Bachelorette Dri-Fit race shirts. And #2 - Charleston before sunrise in late March is chilly! I had a flashback to my nearly-eternal wait at the Start Line of the Disney Half...minus the snow and freezing rain, of course...

Our whole group managed to join together as we approached the Start, and before we knew it, we were off! This is definitely one of the most fun races I've run - not only because the course is so flat (minus the 4% incline for 1.1 straight miles on the bridge), but also because I was there in Charleston with some of my favorite people on the planet! We had a great time. And my baby sis killed it, running the whole 6.2 miles with no walking breaks. In her first race. Ever! What a stud.

A hearty lunch with the gang - followed closely by a little shopping and a big nap - was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. And then came the Bachelorette Shenanigans. Not too much scandal to report...but suffice it to say, amaretto sours and high-quality friendship can go a long, long way.

All too quickly, our weekend together came to an end. Aliza, Sarah, and I road-tripped back together, dropping Sarah off in Charlotte for her flight back to NYC. And after some heavy springtime storms, complete with a few random tornadoes, we were right back where we started in our everyday lives.

Thankfully, the work week was short. And I had the added bonus of a mid-week Argus concert right in my own guest room. Jay was in town on business, so he and Erich took the opportunity to dust off some old Argus tunes in preparation for their upcoming (epic) reunion in Athens, Georgia. I can hardly wait for that weekend!

As I've mentioned before, we're in the middle of a silly stretch of travel and adventure. We just came back earlier today from a really fun trip to Virginia to see my family for Easter. Erich and Dad hit the road for a pretty spectacular cycling trip from Courtland to Colonial Williamsburg. And Mom, Sarah, and I joined them on Duke of Gloucester Street, following our own shopping adventure, of course. It was a perfect spring day - and so great to be with my family. We spent all day Saturday with our extended family - grandparents and all! I really love to be back home. And then we road-tripped back to Winston just in time for an Easter brunch with Erich's mom and her fellow at Noma. Mmmm...

We have just enough time to catch our breath tomorrow before our journey to New York for the Tour of the Battenkill. I can hardly wait for that whole adventure! Stay tuned...